Anybody who’s paid any attention at all knows that there is a right to repair battle waging. But there has been some considerable progress.
At the centre of this are efforts by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada).
“There was a lot of activity last year to push forward on this file,” says Alana Baker, Senior Director of Government Relations, AIA Canada. “We do have a couple of federal bills before Parliament as we speak.”
Baker says AIA Canada also worked to push understanding of the issue with its first Parliament Hill Day in more than five years.
“It brought 20 senior leaders from within the industry from across the country to Ottawa, where we met with 50 federal decision makers with a breakfast and face-to-face meetings to discuss the top issue of concern for the auto care sector, which is the right to repair.
“I would say that overall, the MPs and Senators that we met with were very supportive. We have been quickly mobilizing to capitalize on the momentum that’s continuing to grow. But the overall goal was, of course, to achieve two key objectives.
“One was to strengthen the awareness of the industry and the association’s profile, and also to generate traction for our top advocacy issue.
“Shortly after that Hill Day, we appeared before the House of Commons Industry Committee. The committee is currently studying one of those bills that we mentioned, Bill C-244 which is an Act to Amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance and repair). That is the current right to repair bill moving through the process within Parliament. This is the avenue by which Minister Champagne, our key minister on the file, is collecting feedback.”
That bill, while not specifically focused on right to repair within the aftermarket, does address many of the necessary underpinnings that would entrench right to repair measures in law.
“It is a step in the right direction when it comes to leveling the playing field for service and repair of consumer goods. Obviously, that’s important for our sector, but it’s also important for others. What this bill does in our view, is it presents an opportunity to ensure that Canada is aligned with other leading jurisdictions. Momentum is growing not only in Canada, but all around the world when it comes to consumer choice.
“As we adapt to increasingly connected vehicles that are on our roads that are going to need repair services, this bill is part of the entire equation.”
It doesn’t address every issue of concern though, and so AIA Canada is proposing amendments at committee level that would strengthen it and truly pave the way for right to repair in Canada.
“With new vehicles transmitting data wirelessly from the vehicles to the manufacturers, we need to ensure that any right to repair legislation keeps manufacturers from circumventing the sharing of data through new digital locks, or requiring further technology to access the vehicle data and in fact, creating more barriers to independent repair shops from competitively servicing connected vehicles.
“There are still some loopholes that can be exploited with this bill so the parallel changes that we are suggesting to the Competition Act mirrors what we saw with MP Brian Masse’s bill, Bill C-231 that was introduced last year as well. That bill has unfortunately stalled, but there are some good pieces in that bill that we think can be taken into account to strengthen C-244.”
“We need to ensure that any right to repair legislation keeps manufacturers from circumventing the sharing of data through new digital locks, or requiring further technology to access the vehicle data and in fact, creating more barriers to independent repair shops.”
Senior Director of Government Relations,
And, Baker adds, while it’s not an industry specific right to repair bill, the changes the new bills provide for would have to occur to support any such bill anyway.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t possible approaches in the future that would mirror U.S. proposed legislation, like the aftermarket specific Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act – or the REPAIR Act – that gained significant aftermarket support.
But the broader address of copyright and competition act updates is the current focus of government efforts, and that demands AIA Canada be at the table.
Not to be forgotten is that at the centre of right to repair for the aftermarket are Canada’s vehicle owners and drivers.
“It is about their choice. It’s ensuring that consumers have choice and that they continue to have access to reliable and essential and affordable service and repair for their vehicles. Ultimately, it comes down to where they would like to take their vehicle at the end of the day.”
“As we continue on this trajectory to build some of that good public policy for the auto care sector, we have identified a critical gap in that we need more data. Government’s not going to move on this without some demonstrable evidence and third-party data. Evidence-based research is critical to our advocacy work, and it’s going to help feed other key components of our efforts and our campaign.
“Share your story with us, so we can put that in front of government as to why the current voluntary agreement is not enough and why we need legislation.”
There are also communications tools at RighttoRepair.ca that can help shape messaging and conversations with customers and Members of Parliament.
“There’s a certain power in grassroots advocacy. Your Member of Parliament wants to hear from their own constituents and what’s happening from within their own local constituency. They want to help so we need to talk about what are those barriers that are affecting the constituents and consumers within the riding and within the region so they can help. So, it’s really, really important to talk to your MP.”
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