Canada’s automakers and the national dealers association oppose a push to enshrine into law the right of independent repair shops to access vehicle data, known as right to repair.
They say the current voluntary arrangement to share the proprietary data needed to diagnose and fix vehicles is working well, giving consumers the choice of going to a dealership or independent shop for service.
A private member’s bill introduced in February by Brian Masse, New Democrat Party MP for Windsor West in Ontario, would replace the current system with federal legislation designed to ensure compliance.
The Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS), enacted in 2010, gives independent repair shops access via paid internet subscription to automakers’ proprietary diagnostic codes, software and repair tools through brand-specific portals. Stakeholders negotiated the measure after Masse’s previous effort to pass right-to-repair legislation in 2009.
“The [current] agreement has worked extremely well, and the aftermarket has access to the same information tools that dealers have,” said Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), which represents the interests of the Detroit Three automakers in Canada.
DEALING WITH DIGITAL
But complaints about access persist, said Masse, the NDP’s auto-industry critic. The agreement also did not envision growing digitization of vehicles and the transition to highly computerized electric vehicles. New EV players such as Tesla and Rivian are also not part of CASIS, Masse told Automotive News Canada.
His bill would empower the federal Competition Tribunal, after receiving a complaint, to order automakers to give independent outlets the same data access as authorized service providers, such as dealerships.
“I think that this might hopefully do one of two things,” Masse said. “Either kick-start an interest to modernize the current agreement and find some of the shortfalls to it, or have a more robust discussion as to whether or not there has to be a legislative agenda from the government.”
Private members’ bills have a low probability of becoming law. But in addition to Masse’s bill, Liberal MP Wilson Miao of British Columbia (Richmond Centre) has a broader private member’s bill that would amend the Copyright Act to unlock access to a host of computerized devices, including agricultural equipment and motor vehicles, so independent outlets could service them. It has passed a second reading.
Other countries, notably the United States, are opting for legislation. Several states have enacted right-to-repair laws, and a federal law is being considered.
LAW MEANS PROTECTION
The Automotive Industries Association (AIA), whose 500 members operate about 4,000 service outlets, supports Masse’s bill.
The measure would cement the ability of consumers to choose where to get their vehicle repaired, said AIA President Jean-François Champagne.
“We need legislation to ensure this right continues to be protected,” he said.
While dealerships usually service vehicles still under warranty, most out-of-warranty vehicles go to independents, Champagne said. A 2020 study commissioned by the AIA pegged the aftermarket’s economic impact at $32 billion annually, with about 490,000 employees, he said.
CASIS has served his industry well, Champagne said, “but it’s definitely showing its age.”
The Global Automakers of Canada (GAC), which speaks for import brands, and the CVMA have set up a task force with the AIA to discuss any outstanding issues, said GAC President David Adams.
“To date we haven’t had a comprehensive list of things that folks feel there’s a problem with.”
‘ZERO CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS’
Dealers are not a party to CASIS, but “zero customer complaints” have been made, said Tim Reuss, president of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA). Any problems that have cropped up have been resolved under the agreement, he said.
The AIA’s Champagne, however, said he’s aware of access problems that have gone unresolved for years.
“We’ve raised those points to the automakers,” he said. “It’s a voluntary agreement. There’s no strong enforcement mechanism.”
Polling for the AIA during the 2021 federal election suggested that a sizable majority of Canadians want choice and think automakers should be required by law to share information, Champagne said.
A survey done at the same time for the 6.7-million-member Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) found that 70 per cent of respondents favour a right to repair, said Ian Jack, a CAA spokesman.
The CAA poll looked more broadly at digital rights and privacy in a wireless world as the federal government develops a digital charter.
“Our perspective is that we’re increasingly moving to a wireless world when it comes to data collection in the vehicle and transmission,” Jack said. “It is unclear to us whether the existing agreement fully covers that.
“We do think we need some guardrails around the use of that information, including the right-torepair information.”
The CASIS agreement was the first of its kind in the world, and reopening it would be a good first step, Jack said. But it has no enforcement teeth, as a law might have.
“Government brokered that deal,” he said, “and they’ve done very little since to ensure that its terms are being respected.”