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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6301

Mr GOODENOUGH (Moore) (17:01): In contributing to this debate, I've listened to the contributions of other members and wish to point out that the coalition government has already taken measures to address this issue. Advances of automotive technology, particularly in the area of electronics, have revolutionised the performance and capability of vehicles on Australian roads today, delivering greater fuel efficiencies, power, driver assistance and safety systems.

Onboard computer systems and proprietary software are now features of most modern vehicles. Mechanics and vehicle technicians now use handheld computers plugged into a vehicle's communication port under the dashboard, via a data cable, to read diagnostic trouble codes and make tuning adjustments to the vehicle. These devices are relatively easy to operate and vehicle enthusiasts routinely use these programmers to diagnose and improve the performance of vehicles. I personally use a handheld Superchips tuner for my Ford F-250 pickup. It plugs into the data porta and provides a diagnostic digital read-out of the vehicle's sensors, allowing me to tune the engine and transmission to optimally suit various conditions.

Vehicle manufacturers generally own and control the intellectual property and technical information required to repair and service new cars. Access by independent mechanics and repairers to technical information, equipment and electronic codes required to effectively compete in the vehicle servicing and maintenance market can be denied or delayed by vehicle manufacturers. By restricting access to proprietary software or through data encryption on the part of the vehicle manufacturers, consumers are forced to have their vehicles serviced and maintained by the original vehicle manufacturer or authorised dealerships, often at premium prices, preventing other competent and suitably qualified mechanics from competing in the servicing market. It is similar to other electronic devices, which can be electronically locked to restrict use in particular regions or countries, such as mobile phones, subscriber boxes or gaming consoles. Consumer protection laws have been amended to allow accredited third party service providers to service and repair automotive vehicles without voiding the manufacturer's warranty. This issue is very similar in facilitating access by independent service providers to the technology and software required to service and maintain vehicles.

The coalition government has acted upon a commitment made before the last federal election to protect the interests of consumers by opening the vehicle servicing and maintenance market up to fair competition. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission completed a market study which was released on 14 December 2017 after 18 months of investigation and consultation. It has focused on competition and consumer protection issues in the sale, regular maintenance and repair of new cars.

The ACCC received 130 public submissions, conducted site visits, held a stakeholder forum and a round table, and directly consulted with a wide variety of stakeholders. The government is now considering the design of a mandatory scheme and how it might operate. In considering the design of the scheme, the government is actively seeking to offer consumers greater choice for getting their vehicles serviced or repaired, especially in remote and regional areas; setting out clear expectations for manufacturers with respect to information sharing on fair and reasonable commercial terms to allow independent repairers to compete on a fair and equal playing field; protect vehicle security, environmental and safety information; and facilitate adequate dispute resolution where the independent mechanics and repairers may be experiencing difficulties accessing information.

The coalition seeks to introduce legislation that maintains high standards of vehicle maintenance and protects intellectual property rights for vehicle manufacturers yet opens up the servicing and maintenance market for fair competition by third-party service providers for the benefit of Australian consumers.