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Global and local wins for Right to Repair

Les McMaster, Vice Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) and a director of Right to Repair South Africa, (R2RSA)

Global and local consumers are the big winners following the recent global and local announcements in relation to the sharing of information for motor vehicle repairs and servicing.

In November Massachusetts residents passed a ‘right to repair’ law to open up car data requiring car manufacturers to let people access vehicle data for repairs. Then on 18 December, following nearly a decade of campaigning by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), the Australian Federal Government announced its intention to introduce The Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme to Parliament in early 2021. The new law will make it illegal for car companies to withhold information from qualified independent mechanics – keeping the cost of replacement parts, vehicle maintenance and repair affordable.  

South African consumers are the latest winners in this global move. Last week the Competition Commission published its final Right to Repair Guidelines, a major win, particularly for consumers and small, independent and historically disadvantaged service providers from July 1, 2021.

Decoding Right to Repair

Les McMaster, Vice Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) and a director of Right to Repair South Africa, (R2RSA), a Section-21 not-for-profit organisation, says the Guidelines have distinct implications for consumers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Aftermarket Workshops (referred to as independent service providers or ISPs). They also highlight the critical and urgent need for sharing of information and training.

McMaster, unpacks the salient points everyone needs to know:

Consumers

In South Africa, when consumers buy a new motor vehicle, they are typically sold a Maintenance Plan and/or Service Plan, which has historically been included in the purchase price of the motor vehicle. McMaster says most consumers are unaware that the purchase price of the motor vehicle is bundled with these value-added products. “The Guidelines are important as they promote transparency and now finally allow for product comparisons by consumers at the point of sale of a motor vehicle,” explains McMaster.

Approved dealers are now required to provide the consumer with complete disclosure of:

  • The purchase price of the motor vehicle.
  • The purchase prices of Service and Maintenance Plans and other Value-Added Products.
  • All information regarding the maintenance and repair of their motor vehicle, as well as the terms and conditions under which they are required and/or permitted to maintain and repair their vehicle
  • The average price for each service interval (at the time of sale of the motor vehicle)
  • The average price of the parts covered by the Maintenance Plan and Service Plan that commonly require replacement at specific kilometer intervals or upon the motor vehicle attaining a specific age.

McMaster says in terms of motor vehicle parts

  • Consumers can fit Original or Non-Original spare parts, at a service provider of their choice, whether an Approved Dealer, Approved Motorbody Repairer, or an ISP, during the In-Warranty period.
  • OEMs may not set minimum retail prices for spare parts.
  • OEMs shall recognise and not hinder a consumer’s choice when purchasing Value-Added Products (such as Maintenance Plans, Service Plans and Extended
    Warranties) concurrently, and together with, a new motor vehicle from Approved Dealers;

“This allows consumers to purchase Value-Added Products from any licensed provider of their choice, including Independent/ Third-party Providers,” he says.

Aftermarket Workshops

To ensure that all the work carried out on a motor vehicle is traceable, Aftermarket Workshops, or ISPs, as they are referred to in the Guidelines, are obliged to record such In-Warranty work undertaken in the customers’ Vehicle Service Books.

In turn OEMs and/or Approved Dealers are obliged:

  • To make Original Spare Parts available through sales and distribution, to ISPs where these are required to perform service, maintenance or repair work.
  • Not to restrict an ISP’s ability to procure Original Spare Parts, when required for the purposes of effecting service, maintenance and repair work. OEMs may however impose restrictions or prohibitions on ISPs from on-selling Original Spare Parts to 3rd parties.
  • To allow the ISP access to security-critical components subject to the ISP meeting the OEM’s accreditation requirements and standards, as per the OEM’s global practice.
  • Not to enter into any agreements with manufacturers or suppliers of Spare Parts, tools or equipment to restrict the manufacturer or supplier’s ability to sell those goods to ISPs or end users, except for those Spare Parts, tools or equipment that are protected by intellectual property rights or are linked to a Motor Vehicle’s Security Systems.

McMaster says the Guidelines clearly encourage OEMs to make technical maintenance and repair information readily available, including information stored electronically or in the cloud, to ISPs.   

In essence they are obliged to:  

  • Make available to ISPs their OEM-technical information relating to the motor vehicle, on reasonable terms and conditions, including terms related to usage, confidentiality and fees that are no less favourable to the terms offered to its Approved Dealers and Approved Motor-body Repairers.
  • Allow access by ISPs to OEM-technical information, including security-related   information, that permits access to motor vehicle security systems, including coding and programming and software and safety systems. “Such access must be subject to OEMs' intellectual property and data privacy rights and ISPs meeting their accreditation requirements.”

Technical information, to which access shall be permitted to ISPs includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Unequivocal Motor Vehicle identification
  • Vehicle Service books or its electronic equivalent including data stored electronically or in a cloud;
  • Technical manuals
  • Component and diagnosis information
  • Wiring diagrams
  • Diagnostic trouble codes (including manufacturer specific codes)
  • Software calibration identification number (SCN coding) applicable to a motor vehicle type.
  • Information provided concerning, and delivered by means of, proprietary tools and equipment
  • Data record information and two-directional monitoring and test data and operational software.

“The Guidelines say in instances where an OEM discloses proprietary information or other intellectual property belonging to the OEM, the OEM may impose reasonable conditions, including the requirement that the ISP must sign a confidentiality undertaking,” notes McMaster.

Access to training

McMaster says access to training is a key component in terms of implementation of the Guidelines. “In order to effectively compete with Approved Dealers and Approved Motorbody Repairers, ISPs require support to access OEM brand-specific training and OEMs will need to take measure to provide technical training to ISPs,” he says. “The cost of the training must be provided at a reasonable cost that may not exceed that imposed on employees of Approved Dealers and the training must be sufficiently comprehensive to encompass the methods used to effect structural and mechanical repair, service and maintenance and fitment works on the motor vehicle,” he says.

“All of these aspects are great news for the consumer, increasing competition and allowing easier access to the market by independent service providers. Ultimately more competition always leads to better prices, better quality and better service. We can see that Right to Repair is gathering momentum globally too which bodes well for the motoring public,” concludes McMaster.