Provide repair information: Productivity Commission

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Farm machinery manufacturers should provide diagnostic, service and repair information on “reasonable commercial terms” to third-party repairers, Australia’s Productivity Commission has recommended

Provide repair information: Productivity Commission
Restricting access to manuals and diagnostic software is causing harm to farmers and machinery owners, the Productivity Commission has found

 

Agricultural machinery owners and independent repairers should be provided with access to repair information and diagnostic software, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission (PC) has recommended.

An Inquiry Report into the right to repair has recommended the Australian Government should introduce and amend existing right to repair laws after establishing a repair supplies obligation for motor vehicles earlier this year.

Due to commence in July 2022, the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme (MV Scheme) requires manufacturers to share vehicle diagnostic, service and repair information on reasonable commercial terms with third-party vehicle repairers.

Currently, agricultural machinery repairs are dominated by the authorised dealer network of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), rather than third-party repairers or by farmers doing the repairs themselves.

But the PC found that restricting access to supplies including manuals and diagnostic software tools were ‘causing material harm to farmers and other machinery owners’, saying they reduced access and choice and created financial implications from repair delays.

This harm was ‘most evident and acute’ for agricultural machinery given the time critical nature of repairs during harvest periods and the potential financial ramifications of lost time.

The limited access to repair supplies, as well as the associated costs, effort and delays, and the high cost of switching between machinery brands was also noted as harm experienced by third-party repairers.

Poor competition in the overall agriculture machinery market was also listed as a potential issue of the current restrictions in place.

In all, 40 per cent of agricultural machinery owners surveyed reported problems accessing diagnostic software tools as a point of concern with the current right to repair restrictions.

If access to these repair supplies had been given, 71 per cent of survey respondents who had previously used an authorised repairer said they would have opted for third-party repairers.

Under its latest recommendations, the PC has thrown its support behind a repair supplies obligation being introduced for agricultural machinery, whereby original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) would also be required to share data and information with third-party repairers.

However, the PC has excluded spare parts from its recommendation, suggesting access to them would only increase the complexity of the issue despite access to spare parts being raised as a concern in the submission stage.

The report did recognise concerns from OEMs and dealers regarding unintended risks to safety and other concerns, saying the scheme should be designed to minimise these risks, including introducing limits on the information available to credentialled users.

In its recommendations, the PC said any repair supplies obligation scheme imposed by the government should be imposed on "fair and reasonable commercial terms".

It recommended the government consider ‘voluntary information-sharing initiatives’ as well as developments in the MV Scheme before the new scheme was officially launched by the end of 2022.

Once in operation, the scheme should be evaluated following three years of operation, the PC says.

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