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Independent repair shops face information limitations

Cost and OEMs are key factors in the discussion surrounding the 'right to repair', according to a recent report from the U.S. Government.

Cost and OEMs are key barriers in the “right to repair”, a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found during the debate over the controversial law.

The report found that it isn’t a matter of access for independent repair shops; access exists, but is either limited by OEMs or at a cost that shops say they can’t afford.

In Australia, the right to repair became enshrined in law in 2022 after a decade-long campaign. Despite this, there are still multiple hurdles in reacar owners’ way when repairing their cars, including missing information and the navigation of OEM websites.

One of the Australian Automotive Service and Repair Authority’s (AASRA) key roles is to help repairers with missing information and members can lodge a missing information report.

AASRA executive officer Rodger Nardi told NCR on the first anniversary of the scheme it remained a  “game changer” in the level of information the scheme makes available to the industry.

AASRA is responsible for assisting repairers to information, logging the requests and where applicable, helping to resolve disputes over access.

Under the scheme car companies can be fined if they are found to be in breach of the law.

But Nardi says the largest number of issues arise not from information being withheld but the navigation of OEM websites. 

“The majority of cases centre around being able to find the right information,” Nardi says.

GAO report findings

In the US where the laws are still being debated, the GAO report said, “A reduction in the ability of independent repair shops to conduct repair work could reduce consumer repair choices, whether that reduction is due to limited access to the information, data, and tools needed for repair or to an unwillingness or inability to keep up with technological changes.”

“In addition, a disparity in access to telematics data compared to dealerships could put independent repair shops at a competitive disadvantage. These potential effects could increase prices for consumers as well as affect consumers in other ways.”

The report looks at how vehicle technology changes could affect competition and consumer choice in the repair market, according to the report. Actions related to the issue by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were also reviewed, GAO said.

GAO found that in addition to the possible necessity of replacement parts, technicians also need the following to conduct repairs:

    • “Information on the vehicle and its components, such as wiring diagrams and repair manuals detailing how to conduct repairs;
    • “Vehicle health and repair data, including diagnostic error codes that help a technician determine needed maintenance or repairs; and
    • “Diagnostic scan tools to access a vehicle’s health and repair data.”

The report notes that telematics information may be needed sometimes for repairs, likely for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and mechanical repairs, and OEMs that provide access to it provide only what’s necessary. Two automakers that were interviewed said they provide access to some telematics repair and diagnostic data, and provide a similar level of access to independent repair shops, according to the report.

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