A new block exemption regulation for the car sector came into force on 1 June. Guidelines have also been adopted to provide guidance as to the application of the competition rules in the car sector. Several changes have been made to the previous block exemption in this sector, which it is hoped will increase competition in the market for repair and maintenance.
The new rules introduce a 30% market share threshold. Agreements between car manufacturers and authorised repairers will no longer be covered by the block exemption if their respective market shares exceed this threshold. This is expected to have benefits for consumers and smaller repairers. Car manufacturers will no longer be able to make a car warranty conditional on services being carried out only in specific garages and the refusal to grant independent repairers access to technical information may be deemed to be anti-competitive. Increasing competition between authorised and independent repairers will be beneficial for consumers considering repair bills are thought to account for 40% of the total cost of owning a car.
The Commission is also aware that the previous rules relating to downstream activities, namely in relation to the distribution of cars, were complicated and restrictive with the effect of indirectly driving up distribution costs. The new rules will give car manufacturers more flexibility when distributing their cars, for example, organising a distribution network in which dealers that promote a number of car manufacturers exist alongside dealers who promote only one car manufacturer.