Right to Repair: Where we’re at and what you can do

by | Sep 1, 2022 | 0 comments

A conversation with Alana Baker, Senior Director of Government Relations, AIA Canada.

Anybody who’s been following the aftermarket these days knows that right to repair is a huge issue, both here in Canada and globally. Alana Baker, senior director of government relations with AIA Canada, sat down with Indie Garage publisher Andrew Ross for a recent episode of the Great Canadian Aftermarket Podcast, to discuss where right to repair stands right now in the country, and what you can do to help move the ball forward. What follows are excerpts from their conversation; to listen to the full podcast, go to Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

AIA Canada has launched a dedicated website with tools to help at RighttoRepair.ca.

“Currently there are two right to repair bills in the House. One specifically addressing Right to Repair for the aftermarket; another this is more broadly based. But neither is enough.

“The problem with the legislation that we see in the house now is it doesn’t go far enough. If I could just give you a little bit of context, Bill C-231 was introduced by NDP MP Brian Massey early in February. That bill would amend the Competition Act, to authorize the tribunal to make an order requiring a vehicle manufacturer to provide an independent vehicle repair provider with access to the diagnostic information, the repair information, as well as to parts and so on.

“So that was a good-news bill; it’s specific to the automotive sector. However, the reality is, that bill has stalled. MP Massey has had to turn his attention to another piece of legislation that directly impacts his riding. So while it’s on the table, it’s currently awaiting another sponsor in order for it to continue to move through the parliamentary process.

“But in parallel, we have Bill C-244, the other right to repair bill. It is currently at second reading in the House of Commons. This bill is the avenue by which government will be collecting feedback on the issue of right to repair.

“This bill is more broad. It’s not specific to the automotive sector. It would amend the Copyright Act, and allow those who diagnose and maintain or repair a product to circumvent a technological protection measure. So while it’s a step in the right direction, as I said, it does not go far enough.

“Because we know that new vehicles are collecting data, through vehicle telematic systems. They’re transmitting this data wirelessly from the vehicle back to the manufacturers. We need to ensure that any right to repair legislation eliminates manufacturers from circumventing the sharing of data through new digital locks, requiring further technology to access vehicle data and creating new barriers to independent repair shops from competitively servicing connected vehicles.

“So the best way to achieve that is through parallel amendments to the Competition Act, like what we’ve seen in Brian Massey’s private member’s bill, which would address systemic issues around data ownership and allow our small- and medium-sized businesses to truly compete.

“The key here is that we need to ensure that manufacturers are not able to circumvent the sharing of data. And that will not be achieved as the bill is currently written. So amendments are what we are proposing, to make sure that it makes sense for our industry and for Canadians.

“MPs want to hear directly from their constituents. They care about their constituents. They care about what’s going on within their own community, because ultimately you are the ones who are voting for them at the end of the day. And that’s why we’ve launched a new microsite: righttorepair.ca. This microsite houses all of the tools, the key messaging, the background information to help you, our members, and everyone get the message across to their member of Parliament.When they come back to the House of Commons in the fall, they need to have have heard from as many people as possible that there is a problem to solve here.

“If you visit righttorepair.ca, we’ve armed you with the tools and the messaging to really just to tell the story. How has this impacted your business? How has it impacted your employees and their jobs? How has it impacted consumers and their pocketbooks? These are all the things that the government cares about that right to repair touches on.

“So when you visit our website, you can send an email, you can give them a call. You can request a meeting, invite them to tour your shop and show them what’s happening at ground level. And ultimately, tell them that Canadians care about this issue. Research has shown that 83% of Canadians agree that automakers should be required by law to share data with independent auto repair shops.

“I think, most important, this is all about education. We cannot assume that politicians or local MPs even understand who you are, or what you do, or what the aftermarket is. So it’s really about educating them and making sure they understand how we are a vital part of the Canadian economy.

“Our industry employs more than 500,000 Canadians. We are the ones who ensure that the country’s fleet of almost 26 million vehicles are running safely on Canada’s roads. So that’s the first piece that I would really pinpoint, is make sure that they understand why you’re so important in the community. And we talk about access and how, without movement on this issue from government, that what’s at stake is your shop is at risk of closing. And then what happens, right? You’re limiting choice and access for local individuals in your community who now don’t have access to their local shop.

“The second point I would make is that vehicles today are now computers on wheels, right? So everything is now transmitted wirelessly. But I think people can understand that in order to repair a vehicle in the past, technicians accessed data by literally plugging in a tool. Data is now transmitted directly from the vehicle to a backend server, that only the manufacturers have access to.

“So we need to be a little bit forward thinking and forward looking, when we’re explaining this to Parliament. The current agreement is not going to solve the problem for the vehicles of today, and for the vehicles of the future.

“If there’s one takeaway for shops, it is talk to your MP. Visit our website. We are here to help. You are your best advocate. You know better than anyone else.

“For those who may feel a little bit intimidated, start off with a question to your MP, ‘What was your first car?’ It’s a really good icebreaker and just gets the conversation going. So that’s how I would start it.

“But absolutely, we need as many people to talk to their MPS, make a lot of noise this summer, so that in the fall, when we know the government’s going to turn their attention to back to this. They will know they have a problem to solve.”

AIA Canada has launched a dedicated website with tools to help at RighttoRepair.ca.


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