Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2009   by Auto Service World

Canadian Right To Repair Bill Gets A Boost


The Right to Repair Bill is gaining momentum with growing support from federal politicians, an industry-driven grassroots campaign, and a real chance to go to a vote.

Bill C-273, a private member’s bill, is designed to provide access to specialized tools and information required for automotive repairs. While more than half of vehicle manufacturers do allow independent repair businesses in Canada access, more than 40% do not. This is in stark contrast to the U. S., where the independent sector enjoys access through a voluntary agreement with vehicle manufacturers.

Kicking off the campaign for support in Ottawa, Ont., bill sponsor MP Brian Masse hosted a news conference with Automotive Industries Association of Canada president Marc Brazeau, Retail Council of Canada vice-president of federal government relations Terrance Oakey, and several representatives of the automotive service provider community.

“The bill is affectionately known as the ‘Right to Repair Bill,’ and deals with original equipment manufacturers and onboard diagnostic capabilities that are preventing some of the medium and small businesses across this country from being able to service vehicles appropriately,” said Masse. “As well as a competition issue, it is an environmental issue, as we see vehicles not receiving the service that they need right away.”

Masse said that the bill addresses the needs of the consumer and the service and repair businesses, but also protects the rights of those who have produced the vehicle systems in question.

“It has an approach that protects intellectual property,” he said. “It provides for a reimbursement to the actual manufacturers, and it provides a steady stream of rules that we can engage in to make sure that businesses compete with open and fair practices.”

Repair facility owner Andr Chamberland, AC Auto Service, Rockland, Ont., said that the lack of widespread access is an ongoing problem, and not just with new vehicles. He offered up the fact that even 10-year-old vehicles may need computer updates to keep them running properly, updates that they cannot always provide.

“OBD-II was introduced in the mid-’90s, and even those early Canadian vehicles may need updates–reflashes, as we call them.

“We need to get better information to be able to survive,” he continued. “We have to purchase tools in the grey market in the U. S., as compared to our friends in the U. S. who can get the information over the Internet in their shops and in their homes. We can’t get it in Canada.”

He said that his business recently pulled out of Ontario’s Drive Clean emissions program as a result of the issue.

“Most of the vehicles arriving for the test require a computer update prior to undergoing an emissions test, and we don’t have access to the tools and information.”

“A vehicle today is basically a computer on wheels,” said AIA president Marc Brazeau. “To properly diagnose a problem, you have to plug into the onboard diagnostic computer. That is the crux of the problem. We don’t have access to that to the extent that the dealers do, and that puts the aftermarket at a disadvantage. The Drive Clean program in Ontario, the people who run that program, should be concerned. It could lead to fewer Drive Clean facilities on the aftermarket side. And that would create a problem in terms of access to that service.

“Of the vehicle fleet, a large percentage is affected today”–nearly 60% of the 18.4 million vehicles on the road–“but as the vehicle fleet ages, and those newer vehicles leave the warranty period, the problem is only going to get worse,” said Brazeau.

“Restricting access to training, tools, and diagnostic repair services unfairly limits consumer choice and results in negative economic impacts on legitimate vehicle repair shops and retailers selling a variety of automotive parts and services,” added Retail Council of Canada’s Oakey.

“During these times of economic difficulty for many Canadians, consumers are seeking the best value for their hard-earned dollars. This bill gives our members and other businesses in the automotive industry the opportunity to provide that value.”

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How to Act on Right to Repair

The Right to Repair website has a Web tool which allows members of the aftermarket to voice their concerns about Right to Repair to their Member of Parliament. Visit

www.righttorepair.ca.


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