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

Right To Repair Showdown In The Wings?

With the Right to Repair Bill going before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology this month, and a voluntary agreement also being touted, a standoff may be developing.

After a concentrated lobbying effort by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA), its members, and other supportive groups, Bill C-273 was passed by an overwhelming vote in Parliament last May, thus sending it to the review stage this month.

The bill would effectively give independent service centres and technicians the same access to tooling and training information as their OEM dealership counterparts.

While the threat of an election could set the progress of the Right to Repair legislation back–the bill would have to be reintroduced were that to occur–expectations are rising as prospects of an early election seem less likely, with the present government continuing to get sufficient support in Parliament.

“[The bill] has passed second reading and received a vote of 248-17 to be referred to the committee,” says Scott Smith, director of government and industry relations for the AIA. “I hope the committee finds the bill valid and if there are amendments to be made that will improve the bill, that those amendments are made, and that the bill goes back to the House for a vote. If everything goes smoothly it could be with the Senate by as early as the New Year, and the bill could become law early next spring.

“If passed, Bill C-273 would amend framework legislation for the Competition Act and the Environmental Protection Act. Under the Environmental Protection Act, it would harmonize with the U.S.’s Clean Air Act and would require carmakers to share information with the aftermarket that could be accessed over the Internet. The Competition Act would be the policing function, such that if there was a challenge with compliance with auto manufacturers, there would be an opportunity for the Competition Bureau to take whatever company is non-compliant to task, assuming the legal tests were met.”

However, groups opposing the legislative approach in favour of a voluntary agreement did make a significant announcement.

Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement announced the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS) agreement between automakers and the aftermarket.

According to the National Automotive Trades Association (NATA), the agreement would also allow automotive repair facilities in Canada to access auto manufacturers’ service and repair information in addition to tooling and training information. The agreement states that automakers will have the information made available no later than May 2010.

Insiders say that efforts such as these constitute a deliberate attempt to scuttle the Right to Repair Bill, for which hopes remain high. Notably lacking in the announcement was any mention of the Right to Repair Bill currently working its way through the legislative process.

A letter released by AIA president Marc Brazeau to Minister Clement states that AIA and its partnering associations were excluded from the conversations between automakers and the aftermarket on the issue of access to information.

“We are at a loss as to explain why the car manufacturers would exclude AIA in these discussions in favour of a loosely affiliated organization that represents less than 5% of the marketplace in very few provinces,” stated Brazeau. “Moreover, it is our understanding that this organization also represents new car dealerships within its membership, clearly a conflict of interest.”

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