Why a ‘Right to Repair’ Campaign?

Cars have become more and more ‘computers on wheels’. Technological innovations provide better emissions control and more safety and comfort; but these innovations have made it increasingly challenging to service or repair a vehicle.

Without effective access to technical information, multi-brand diagnostic tools and test equipment, replacement parts and training, independent market operators would be deprived of their right to service and repair vehicles. Competition in the automotive after- market would be eliminated, and the entire independent automotive aftermarket chain is at threat of being driven out of business. And the European motorists would lose their freedom to choose the aftermarket care of their vehicles.

Despite these challenges, local and EU policy makers have little awareness of this threat facing the multi-brand automotive

aftermarket and how this affects Europe’s economy and competi- tiveness. Moreover, the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation (EC) 1400/2002, which is designed to protect competition and con- sumer choice in the parts and repair sector, will expire in 2010, its renewal being uncertain. The ‘Euro 5’ Regulation 715/2007/EC, which will enter into force in September 2009, will cover access to all technical information for newly type-approved vehicles and can thus not fill the gap for the existing vehicle park.

As a reaction to the political, legal and technological challenges, a wide range of multi-brand market operators and motoring organi- sations have come together to defend not only their very right to repair – but importantly, consumers’ right to have their vehicles ser- viced, maintained and repaired at a workshop of their choice.

What is the Right to Repair Campaign?

The Right to Repair Campaign (R2RC) is an international information campaign on behalf of the many who care about the future of the multi-brand automotive aftermarket. There is a need for a fair and competitive regulatory environment that enables freedom of choice for the consumers and that gives aftermarket SMEs a chance to stay in business. The R2RC aims at preventing legislation that would deny consumers their right to have their vehicles serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices in the workshop of their choice. It also commits to safeguard independent aftermarket operators’ right to exist, serve and grow. Only strong, entrepreneurial competition will result in advantageous pricing for consumers and ensure that local businesses can continue to provide quality service in the neighborhood they serve and support.

What are the aims of the Right to Repair Campaign?

The Right to Repair Campaign focuses on consumer choice and effective competition in the automotive aftermarket. It is based on the right of motorists in the choice of the aftermarket care of their vehicles and the right of the independent operators to maintain, service and repair modern vehicles equipped with multiple elec-tronic control units managed by complex software and multiplex networks.

The R2RC aims to

  • improve the visibility and understanding of the independent automotive aftermarket;
  • ensure that the legal right of access to technical information, tools and equipment, parts and training is upheld;
  • promote a regulatory environment that effectively safeguards the interests of small and medium-sized companies in this sector;
  • uphold motorists’ rights to have their vehicles serviced, from day one, by the workshop of their choice.

Why promote the Right to Repair?

The South-African Competition Commission has started investigating the South-African automotive aftermarket. In the current environment in South-Africa the independent aftermarket is excluded from servicing vehicles that are under warranty, technical information is withheld and anti-competetive rules are applied by manufacturers in the sale of parts and accessories, pushing the consumer more and more to only use the OEM’s dealership networks. Unless we act now, the future of the multi-brand automotive aftermarket and freedom of consumers to choose is in jeopardy.

How does this affect me?

Without full and fair access to technical information, replacement parts, training, multi-brand diagnostic tools and test equipment, the independent aftermarket operators will be deprived of their right to service and repair vehicles. Independent repairers will be driven out of business. Independent distributors will lose their clients. Tools and parts producers will lose their independent-aftermar-ket-business. The survival of the entire independent aftermarket chain is at risk. The right to repair will safeguard the consumer’s right to affordable and convenient aftermarket care for his vehicle, from day one – including the statutory and any extended warranty period – and throughout the entire life cycle of his vehicle.

Why is the R2RC important for consumers?

The R2RC aims at maintaining effective and fair competition between independent aftermarket operators and the vehicle manufacturers’ service networks as it is the only way to guarantee the motorists’ freedom of choice of where to take their vehicles for servicing or repair. Motorists should be able to choose what is done to their property and who executes the work on what is, after all, their car.

This also means :

  • The right to determine who should have access to the technical data stored by the computerized on-board systems, and to determine how such data may be stored and used;
  • The right of motorists and independent operators to learn of any defect that needs to be corrected, this is especially important in the context of vehicle safety
  • The right to have any quality part installed that meets all legal requirements, regardless of whether or not it was supplied by the vehicle manufacturer ;

What is the independent automotive aftermarket?

  • Approximately 665.000 companies (2005), of which 650.000 are predominantly small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) and 15.000 are manufacturers of automotive components supply- ing also the independent aftermarket ;

  • employing 3.5 million people in the 27 Member States of the European Union (2005);
  • serving a total of 260 million vehicles in the EU (passenger cars, trucks and buses) (2005);
  • providing 227 million car drivers with 82 billion Euros worth of components (parts, tyres, accessories etc.) (2005).

Why is the independent aftermarket vital for the economy?

European motorists spend around 140 billion Euros per year on components and services for passenger cars. Obtaining a good deal on parts and services can make all the difference between affordable or non-affordable mobility.

The independent aftermarket improves the efficiency of the sec- tor by investing in Research & Development, in training, in logis- tics, and by developing entrepreneurial opportunities it maintains competition in all corners of Europe.

Why is the independent aftermarket crucial for the Community?

A wide range of operators constitutes the independent and multi-brand automotive aftermarket: garages, body repairers, independent distributors, manufacturers of components and accessories, producers of diagnostic tools and equipment, inspection centres, training institutes and roadside rescue patrols. It forms a true network of SMEs across Europe, to the

benefit of local and regional economies. As a consequence, failure to uphold effective competition in Europe would considerably jeopardise the future and the potential development of business and local activities in every part of the EU, from the main centres to the most remote areas.

Why is the independent aftermarket essential for the environment?

With the challenges of climate change, the EU is committed to ever tighter environmental requirements. The independent aftermarket supports the maintenance of the EU’s environ- mental standards and makes safe and clean mobility possible throughout the entire life cycle of the vehicles. The independent

aftermarket participates actively in the protection of the envi- ronment by maintaining vehicles or by improving their emission performance by e.g. retrofitting particulate filters improving CO2 emission levels.

What about the legal framework ?

The ability of aftermarket operators to provide high-quality repair and maintenance at competitive prices depends on an appropriate legislative environment, in which the dominance of the vehicle manufacturers is balanced with consumer rights and the protection of SMEs.

Ensuring fair and effective competition is at the heart of Community legislation, which has included sector-specific rules on competition in the automotive industry for many years. The current Block Exemption Regulation (EC) 1400/2002 is designed to protect competition and consumer choice in the repair sector.

It states that parts suppliers may sell replacement parts direct- ly into the aftermarket, and that authorised repairers may source quality parts from the supplier of their choice, including independent parts wholesalers. The use of such parts, as well

as the servicing of a vehicle by an independent repairer, will not invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty. Independent operators are entitled to non-discriminatory access to technical informa- tion, tools and training. This ensures efficient and competitively priced repair and maintenance as well as effective roadside assistance by motorist associations across the EU.

These rules expire in 2010, and whether they will be renewed is the subject of controversial discussions. The European Commission will publish a report on the legislative framework in 2008. The R2R campaign will highlight the continued need for sector-specific rules protecting competition and consumer choice.

Who supports the Right to Repair Campaign?

The Right to Repair Campaign gathers different categories of stakeholders having an interest in the creation of a competitive regulatory environment for the automotive aftermarket. It is sup- ported by authorised and independent repairers, independent parts distributors, parts suppliers, producers of diagnostic tools and garage equipment, trade groups, roadside rescuing operators and motorist clubs and is open to any who care about the future of the multi-brand automotive aftermarket, and its rightful claim for consumer choice and a competitive after-sales market.

The Right to Repair Campaign original supporters are :

AIRC         – Association Internationale des Réparateurs en Carosserie

CECRA     – European Council for Motor Traders and Repairs

EGEA       – European Garage Equipment Association

FIA           – Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile

FIGIEFA – International Federation of Automotive Aftermarket Distributors

How to become involved ?

If you wish to help us raise awareness on the right to repair, uphold the right for consumers’ choice, the right for independent and multi-brand operators to exist, to serve and to grow, then join the Right to Repair Campaign! Simply send us an e-mail from our CONTACT page.

Original parts vs parts of matching quality vs pirate parts ?

Parts from the OESs and the same production lines are available to the independent aftermarket i.e. independent repair workshops. These manufacturers produce for the independent aftermarket according to the same quality standards, and are referred to as ‘parts of matching quality’.Of course, there are inferior parts out there. By sticking with brands you know and those recommended by a reputable, accredited workshop that knows your vehicle and uses the right products and parts, you can get the same performance out of aftermarket parts versus OEM and original parts, at a lower cost.

What does ‘anti-competitive’ in the automotive industry mean for me ?

Competition is the basis for an inclusive and sustainable economy. It’s all good and well to give a BEE investment group a shareholding in a large dealership, but in the long run we need to make sure that the independent small business can compete. That is a far more sustainable way of assuring real change in our economic landscape. Current exclusionary practices mean start-ups are being driven out of business, and job creation is restricted as is the growth of this sector. Denying workshops the chance to repair vehicles because of warranties and access to information has allowed manufacturers to monopolise the automotive industry.

What is the reality for workshops out there ?

Equal opportunities will achieve and maintain a competitive economy ensuring all members remain sustainable. However, we believe strongly that only through change in respect of the right to repair will the economy open up for these workshops and make this more viable.

What is the GLOBAL trend with regards to Right to Repair ?

Recently, representatives from 26 nations gathered in Frankfurt at the Global Right to Repair Coalition and Right to Repair SA (R2RSA) was among them. The meeting closed with a unified statement that the independent aftermarkets would not rest on their laurels and will continue, through the coalition, to address the issues regarding OEM malpractices throughout the world.

What does transparency in the motor industry mean ?

Consumers want to know what they are getting for their hard-earned cash, especially when it comes to high-value items such as cars. We believe there needs to be transparency when it comes to pricing of parts, service plans, and warranties. When consumers have all the facts, they are in a better position to make a choice.

What does ‘Fair competition’ mean in the Automotive aftermarket ?

Fair competition means parts and servicing prices will drop and as vehicle owners have greater choice, they will be more willing to service their vehicles regularly. There’s no doubt this will lead to increased employment and job opportunities.


This Q&A has been compiled with the support of FIGIEFA and the European Right to Repair Campaign.