Motorists are almost certain to miss out on cheaper servicing after the Federal Government backed down on an overhaul of the technical maintenance data shared by car companies to independent workshops.
As modern cars are increasingly controlled by computers, they need expensive diagnostics equipment to do routine maintenance - which in many cases forces motorists to take their car to the dealership they bought it from.
Last year the Federal Government announced a review of the sharing of technology, given that modern vehicles will eventually come on to the market as used cars. But rather than force car makers to share more technical information, the Federal Government has deferred the issue for the car makers to sort it out among themselves.
"It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house; consumers are the ones who will be disadvantaged," said Andrew McKellar, the executive director of the Australian Automobile Association, which represents 7 million motorists.
"After more than a year the best recommendation they could come up with is that the car brands should decide amongst themselves who can access their information - it’s simply not good enough."
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury today released the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) final report, entitled ‘Sharing of repair information in the automotive industry’.
The advisory council found there was "a relatively low level of consumer detriment associated with the accessibility of repair information at this time".
The CCAAC says it urges "the industry to expedite current processes to develop an appropriate outcome in response to this issue and will continue to engage with the industry to support this".
"This is a weak report which recommends a weak response - the interests of consumers need to be recognised," said McKellar.
"Motorists deserve a level playing field when they have their car repaired and experience has shown that industry-led resolutions are not an efficient or effective means of addressing motorists concerns.
"The Government needs to acknowledge that motorists own and control the information and data relating to their vehicle, not the manufacturer."
James McCall, the chief executive of the NSW Motor Traders Association, which represents 5000 car dealers and repairers - both sides of the debate - said: "I believe the report is fair and more than satisfactory. This is a commercial matter that needs to be settled between independent repairers, motor dealers and car manufacturers and no-one else should interfere."