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The fight for the Right to Repair

By autotech-nath on March 16, 2024

The independent aftermarket has had to fight for the right to repair ever since vehicles became more connected and vehicle manufacturers made it more difficult for independents to access vital repair and maintenance information. Following recent wins in this arena, we speak with Mark Field, IAAF Chief Executive, about its new Right to Repair campaign, which will focus on raising awareness among motorists and celebrating the vibrant independent aftermarket.

Following more than a decade of lobbying by UK
AFCAR, a coalition of aftermarket trade associations and organisations including the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation, and thanks to the IAAFs ongoing work with the Competition and Markets Authority reporting VM restrictive practices, the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order (MVBEO) which provides the framework of law to promote fair competition in vehicle repair has been revised and extended until 2029. The aftermarket has secured important gains in the reviewed MVBEO, which supports effective competition and choice for millions of UK motorists, and includes full access and recognition for independent garages, parts distributors, suppliers and manufacturers to full repair and maintenance information and data from vehicle manufacturers.

This revised MVBEO aligns the UK with the rest of Europe and the USA. More than 35 associations around the world, including the IAAF, are part of the Global Right to Repair movement and have signed a statement that supports the core beliefs of the movement and its objectives. The document sets out 10 best practice principles to develop a framework for right to repair legislation that any supporting country can use and adapt to their needs. Globally, the automotive aftermarket keeps 1.52 billion vehicles on the road, contributing $1.8 trillion to the global economy. After vehicles exit their warranty period, independent repair shops perform more than 70% of repairs. The IAAF says this vibrant industry and the consumer choice that it creates has been threatened by automotive manufacturers that block access to wirelessly transmitted vehicle repair and maintenance data.

However, the IAAF says the revised MVBEO presents significant improvements for UK motorists to benefit from, which are detailed in law, and clearer definitions to support the way vehicles are diagnosed, repaired and maintained. Later this year, the IAAF will launch a new Right to Repair Campaign to highlight the mobility choices available to motorists through the automotive aftermarket of suppliers, motor factors and garages. With vehicle manufacturers placing obstacles in the way of independents needing
to access the data required to diagnose and fix the latest vehicles, previous campaigns have quite rightly focused on unfair practices and restrictions, but the IAAF says now is the time to take on a longer-term approach to raising awareness of the aftermarket and the benefits of choice the automotive aftermarket provides motorists.

Mark Field, Chief Executive of IAAF, tells AT: “Previous campaigns, ‘Your car your choice’, ‘Right 2 Repair’, those public facing campaigns were a call to action, similar to the petitions against extending the first MOT to four years, and largely about raising the profile of our industry. With previous campaigns there was an end game, but rather than having a finite point for what we are fighting for, this is a continuous promotion of [consumer] choice.”

Here, Mark shares five reasons why the UK campaign will be built on positivity, not fear:

1. Why shouldn’t we be positive? There’s too much negativity anyway. The automotive aftermarket is a leading provider of choice and takes care of millions of motorists every day. It is also a vibrant, entrepreneurial, significant economic contributor to the UK economy with both large and small businesses leading the way. The right to repair campaign will celebrate this – it’s time to come out of the shadows.

2. Choice – and competition – benefits everyone. Freedom of choice is essential to a vibrant sector. If new entrants want to join our sector, and if vehicle manufacturers want to invest and grow their aftermarket business, it will inspire us and prove that this is a sector worth innovating and evolving. To do this, we need to celebrate the roles of not just businesses but individuals. We want new people and new ideas in our trade.

3. Fear is short term. Selling and marketing on fear is short term, and is one built around a quick return. We can learn from each other and can do well and good at the same time.

Marketing on ‘fear’ is not a good look for a sector brimming with possibility.

4. The future will look very different. The automotive aftermarket has been consolidating and evolving for some time. IAAF exists to bring competitors and people together and in an evolving world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Autonomous Driving, we need to work in partnership not in isolation. Our competitors today may be our partners tomorrow; we need to be open-minded in a world of change.

5. We have a responsibility to uphold. The automotive aftermarket and vehicle manufacturers have a responsibility, not only to customers but those looking to forge a career in the automotive industry to be progressive and honest. Choice, fair competition and exceptional service are our key defining features.

If you come across restrictions, the IAAF want to know…

The CMA has created a welcome set of revisions in both the MV-BEO and the accompanying guidelines, but it is using the next five years to monitor not only the effectiveness of these revisions, but also other changes that are expected in the UK Aftermarket. To do this effectively, it is actively seeking evidence of either non-compliance with the MV-BEO, or equally, new scenarios that may be blocking the ability to compete effectively in offering ‘repair and maintenance services’ when compared to the vehicle manufacturers themselves, as well as their authorised networks, wherever this may occur in the complete ‘repair process’. The IAAF has a dedicated webpage link where this evidence can be submitted to help support the CMA in being made aware of any issues and to consider any future revisions of the MV-BEO: https://www.iaaf.co.uk/lobbying/

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