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What the New Mandatory Data Sharing Law Means for Motorists

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently took aim at car manufacturers. This time it wasn’t in relation to any specific mechanical controversies like the Dieselgate saga. Instead, it was about the after-purchase period concerning maintenance and repairs, where a lack of data sharing with independent mechanics has been said to ‘hurt’ everyday motorists. 

 

How did we get here?

Before we try to make sense of it all, let’s take a step back to a few years ago. In 2014, auto-makers agreed to a voluntary system where data sharing would be placed in the hands of manufacturers. Provisions were put in place that were designed to help independent mechanics access computer codes and calibration data among other information.

However, the voluntary nature of this program meant there were no formal obligations or requirements to comply with the intended aim of the program. More recently, in 2018, the Federal Government paved the way for a more structured approach to data sharing. Despite the matter being earmarked as part of ‘priority’ sector reform, it was largely overlooked amid more pressing issues until late last month when the Australian Government announced a mandatory data sharing law.

 

Why did it take so long?

For most of this discussion period, car manufacturers have continually expressed concerns about the idea of being compelled to comply with data sharing requirements. As such, you can imagine they were firmly opposed to any measure that would force them to provide your local independent mechanic with technical information about their vehicles.

Representatives regularly cited safety reasons for their reluctance to share data with independent mechanics. One of the key concerns was providing independent mechanics with access to complex information that may prompt them to undertake repairs beyond the scope of their training, or where they may otherwise be without the appropriate tools.

 

What impact might the new law have?

Independent mechanics have pointed to the increased sophistication in today’s cars to reinforce the need to access vehicle data. Jobs that were once a simple and easy fix in years gone by, have become increasingly complex if you believe the words of many independent mechanics.

In the eyes of the ACCC, this means motorists have been getting a raw deal on their servicing and repair costs. They estimate that drivers have been paying as much as $1 billion per year more than necessary on account of independent mechanics not having access to data that would make their jobs easier.

Meanwhile, in backing the call for greater data sharing, the Australian Automotive Aftermarkets Association (AAAA) noted that the US and European markets have established programs in place to facilitate data sharing. In the US alone, these measures are estimated to save motorists US$26 billion per year. It appears the government has the notion of consumer savings in its sights, which could help drivers save a pretty penny. However, will it prove wise to dismiss manufacturers concerns?

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