A resounding judicial victory was scored in Italy this fall by Bryan Cave’s affiliated office (“SILS”) on behalf of the Volkswagen Group.
The Supreme Court of Italy (“Corte di Cassazione”) rejected all claims brought against VW by a local car dealer (B Automobili) in a long-running, complex case involving an alleged “abuse of a dominant position” by VW.
The plaintiff alleged the violation of Italian antitrust rules (specifically Section 3 of Law No. 287 of 1990) on the basis of “restrictions of intrabrand competition” imposed on dealers by VW’s national distributor (Volkswagen Group Italia), in the context of its sales network’s reorganization/restructuring for luxury brand AUDI.
The Supreme Court, however, took the lack of exclusive sourcing obligations for the dealers, and the objective criteria applied in the network’s restructuring, as clear evidence of VW’s primary aim of market efficiency and improving consumers’ services and opportunities. This result absolved the German manufacturer and its national distributor of the plaintiff’s intended sanctions (and expensive restoration of damages) under Italian law.
Vehicle manufacturers be aware: Italy’s judiciary at the highest level will uphold your fundamental right to set the technical standards for enlisting dealers and repairers into your brands’ networks, so long as no discrimination applies. Due to the complexity of the issues, skilled contractual and judicial counseling is advised.