MASSE on CBC National Saturday Report - Right to Repair Automobiles

PUBLICATION: CBC Television - Saturday Report
DATE: 2007.12.29
TIME: 18:00 EDT
WORD COUNT: 546

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[When we come back, small auto repair shops say they are being squeezed out of business by the big car companies. DAN PREZEAU (OWNER, «CAR-O-PRACTOR»): ...should care about]

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JACQUIE PERRIN (HOST):

When we come back, small auto repair shops say they are being squeezed out of business by the big car companies.

DAN PREZEAU (OWNER, «CAR-O-PRACTOR»):

...should care about this because it's their freedom of having their vehicle repaired where they want.

(Commercial break)

JACQUIE PERRIN (HOST):

It could be one of daily life's biggest headaches. A car that's breaking down. But if you take it to your trusty neighbourhood mechanic, you could be in for a bigger headache. Many mechanics no longer have the inside knowledge they need to fix your car. Simon Gardner has the story.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

These days auto mechanics need more than wrenches. For years key functions in vehicles have been controlled by on-board computers. Figuring out what's wrong requires diagnostic tools that you plug into receptors on the vehicle.

MECHANIC:

The P.O. 40 code ...

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

But there is a problem. Mechanics at independent ships say more than half of the car makers are refusing to supply them with the tools and software needed to fix late model cars.

DAN PREZEAU (OWNER, «CAR-O-PRACTOR»):

If we remove, disconnect the battery on this vehicle...

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

Dan Prezeau owns «Car-o-practor», a large shop in Richmond, southwest of Ottawa. He says just disconnecting the battery on a modern car can cause huge technical headaches.

DAN PREZEAU (OWNER, «CAR-O-PRACTOR»):

Power goes away from the vehicle. Radio goes into theft lock, and then, boom, you are off to the trip for the dealership.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

That's because only the dealership has the right tool to reactivate the radio. In the past month alone he has had to send ten vehicles to the dealer for this reason. It's costing time and money. He is convinced car makers and dealers are out to monopolize the multibillion dollar auto repair business.

DAN PREZEAU (OWNER, «CAR-O-PRACTOR»):

It's simple. If you don't give access to pertinent information for technicians for repairing, well you're monopolizing the industry, right.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

The independent auto repair industry is fighting back with a lobbying campaign called «Right to Repair.» The goal is to pressure for laws that would force manufacturers to provide tools and information at a reasonable price. Brian Masse, NDP member of parliament from Windsor, is proposing a right to repair act. Earlier this year he introduced a private member's bill. He says this is all about keeping independent shops in business so consumers have a choice.

BRIAN MASSE (ONTARIO NDP MP):

If you have limited options as a consumer, look at your cell phone bill, having less choices often results in higher prices and what we are saying is there should be a set of fair rules out there so competition can thrive.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

So what's the view from the other side. Huw Williams is with the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association.

HUW WILLIAMS (CANADIAN AUTOMOBILIE DEALERS ASSOCIATION):

In the same way that the government doesn't legislate that Tim Hortons has the best recipe for coffee and has to share that with the individual franchise down the street, the government shouldn't be legislating how companies like Toyota and General Motors, who have come up and invested in proprietary information should have to share that with the marketplace.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

What's more, he says, independent shops including companies such as Canadian Tire already have the lion's share of the business.

HUW WILLIAMS (CANADIAN AUTOMOBILIE DEALERS ASSOCIATION):

When you have 75% of the market, it's tough to allege that dealers are somehow hoarding the information.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

But people running the right to repair campaign fear that market share could plunge in the near future if nothing changes. Dan Prezeau says independent mechanics are already being forced out of business.

DAN PREZEAU (OWNER, «CAR-O-PRACTOR»):

Motorists should care about this because it's their freedom of having their vehicle repaired where they want, where they are comfortable.

SIMON GARDNER (REPORTER):

Simon Gardner, CBC News, Ottawa.