Parliament's ITRE Committee Support to Data Act Is a Positive Step Ahead to Fair Access But Key Elements Are Still Missing
The digital transformation of society creates opportunities to improve people’s daily lives. Connected IoT products are becoming ubiquitous and are generating enormous amounts of data. Such data, which citizens and businesses are generating through the use of such products, and their related services, has massive potential to be leveraged for the benefit for their users.
The long-awaited Data Act will define harmonised rules on how this data should be accessed, shared and used. It will define rights and obligations for all parties involved. It will provide a horizontal regulatory framework and cover almost all categories of connected products, with the objective of ensuring a fair access to and use of machine-generated data, tackling barriers to access for both consumers and businesses.
The automotive aftermarket and mobility services sector represents an example of an industry being affected by current lack of ‘access to data’. Fairly regulated access to vehicle data could support the digital transformation of an industry with over 4.5 million jobs, most of which are in SMEs. Currently only one player (i.e. the vehicle manufacturers) uses its privileged position to prevent other stakeholders from effectively accessing data. This has hampered independent service providers in the aftermarket and mobility services sector from the ability to provide competitive digital services to users applying their own innovation potential.
The future Data Act has the intention to unblock this situation in many industry sectors with similar problems. It intends to promote data-driven innovation and an enhanced competitive environment for all players involved, enabling them to offer further benefits to consumers, to develop new business opportunities for all players. Upskilling and reskilling of jobs aligned to the green and digital goals set by the European Union is also expected.
Since the publication of the Data Act by the European Commission, FIGIEFA has strongly supported its objectives. Our sector further endorses the current approaches from the European Parliament and Council which represent a further step towards the market implementation of the EU’s digital strategy. However, to materialise a successful deployment of these ambitious goals in the automotive sector, a revision to key elements of the proposal is still required, i.a.:
- Scope of Data: The meaning of ‘derived data’ should be further clarified to ensure a robust scope of the Data Act. Without this, there is a real risk that data vital for the provision of aftermarket services may be excluded. The definitions of ‘readily available data’ and ‘data generated through the use of a product’ also need clarification.
- Trade Secrets: As organisation representing industrial interests, FIGIEFA acknowledges the importance and support the protection of trade secrets. However, Article 8(6) as currently drafted, risks undermining significantly the objective of the Regulation by creating a trade secrets exception whereby data holders can too easily avoid data sharing obligations by simply claiming trade secret protection.
- Compensation for data holders: Compensation should be based on the costs incurred in providing access and guidelines that should be included to define what is reasonable. Moreover, the cost-based approach should not be restricted to SMEs (Art. 9(2)). Finally, if a margin is to be applied, clear and binding rules should be established by the Commission.
- Interoperability requirements for Data Recipients seeking to access data: FIGIEFA suggests adding specific requirements on transparency of how the user may access the data to Article 3. These are requirements to practically enable users and/or third parties to develop the means to exercise their rights of data access.
The Data Act represents a step forward in the effort to promote a genuine Internal Single Market for data based on fair and competitive rules. However as horizontal piece of legislation, it is not, in itself, sufficiently tailored to respond to the specifics of the automotive aftermarket and mobility sector. This is why a future sector-specific legislation for the automotive sector is still needed, as clearly affirmed by various Commission studies and the ITRE committee of the European Parliament.