SPECIAL REPORT: Shops laud Right to Repair bill passage

OTTAWA — Talk about a landslide. Bill C-273, a.k.a., the "Right to Repair Bill," was passed by Parliament this week by a vote of 248 to 17.

The outcome surprised many observers. While the bill was expected to pass second reading, few industry-watchers predicted it would receive such resounding approval.

Bill C-273 requires vehicle makers — including commercial trucks — to make available to independent auto repair shops the tools, training, and information that enable them to fix their cars and trucks.

This is common practice in the United States, where OEMs are legally required to release emissions-related information, diagnostic data and proprietary tools to the independent sector.

The information isn’t free — independent shops will still have to pay a reasonable fee for it, but the legislation releases the vehicle owner from having to go back to the dealership only for repairs.

AIA Canada notes that in 2004 alone, blocked access to OBD II (On Board Diagnosis) shifted as much as $2 billion worth of auto repair work away from independent shops.

New Democrat Industry and Auto Sector critic Brian Masse (Windsor West) — who originally introduced the private member’s bill two years ago — called the vote’s outcome a resounding victory for consumers, the environment, and public safety.

Independent technicians could soon have
access to vital vehicle diagnostic data

Bill C-273 "ensures a level playing field and creates the mechanism for disclosure," noted Masse.

Evidently, the vast majority of MPs are fully cognizant that as cars and trucks have become increasingly more advanced over the years, and data information on computer control units is essential to keep vehicles running.

It doesn’t appear then that a strategy adopted by several automobile manufacturers calling for a voluntary agreement has worked. The aftermarket industry has successfully convinced Ottawa that the only real solution to this problem is legislation.

As Bill C-273 heads to the Committee stage, the hard work now begins as any interested party can challenge the bill or request amendments. Observers say a Committee report to Parliament should be ready sometime in September — unless an election is called.

Proponents point out that the bill has massive industry, political and populist support — indeed, more than 9,000 letters were sent to federal MPs advocating passage of the bill.

A breakdown of which MPs voted for and against the bill can be found on AIA Canada’s website, www.aiacanada.com.

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