The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published its Guidance on Motor Vehicle Agreements, an accompaniment to the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order (MVBEO) that came into force on June 1st.
Following the UK’s split from the European Union, many rules and regulations were retained while the UK government establishes their own procedures. MVBEO was especially important, with the retained version due to expire on May 31st. The CMA recently concluded a consultation, and has now enshrined the guidance into law.
The new MVBEO order guidance includes several important points designed to protect the UK aftermarket, following consultation responses from numerous organisations involved in the sector.
One such point is the full access and recognition for independent garages, parts distributors and suppliers to full repair and maintenance information from vehicle manufacturers.
For parts distributors as well as the workshops who finally fit these parts, software and coding must now also be made available to ensure their ability to complete vehicle repairs. Importantly, the inclusion of the reference to Chapter II of the UK Competition Act introduces the basis for ‘horizontal’ agreements between vehicle manufacturers and independent operators.
“An independent operator should have access [to] information, tools or training for the purposes of providing repair and maintenance services for motor vehicles of a particular make,’ the guidance states. “The specified manner is a manner which does not put the independent operator at a disadvantage as regards the provision of repair and maintenance services compared to authorised repairers, authorised distributors and authorised partners. The objective of this provision is to ensure a level-playing field between all the relevant players”
References are also made in the guidelines to the type approval requirements for access to RMI, which will also need to be revised to ensure continued effective competition that supports consumer choice and affordable mobility.
Industry responds to MVBEO consultation
UK AFCAR lobbied the CMA on access to repair and maintenance information in the new MVBEO, securing critically important gains in the new guidance.
Mark Field, IAAF Chief Executive and UK AFCAR chairman said: “This is major achievement for the independent automotive aftermarket, and I would look to pay tribute to intense work of the UK AFCAR and its members, Neil Pattemore and our colleagues in FIGIEFA. I would also like to acknowledge and thank CMA for their detailed understanding of the need to protect consumer choice and their commitment to working with UK AFCAR to ensure compliance of MVBEO.”
The Independent Garage Association (IGA) also submitted a detailed response, with its comments and suggestions also helping the guidance to take shape.
“There is a great deal to welcome in the new order,” commented Stuart James, IGA Chief Executive. “We are reassured that the MVBEO is, by and large, aligned to the needs of the British consumer and the UK motor vehicle sector. The new legislation will include greater clarity for consumers around warranty restrictions, and protect their freedom of choice in terms of vehicle service, maintenance and repair during the vehicle manufacturers’ warranty period.
“The Order also gives guidance on parts and supplier agreements which will protect the ability of independent garages to offer a quality service to the customer.”
The IGA also called for greater clarity on access to connected-vehicle data, and access for independent operators to vehicle communications, in its consultation response. “The latter has the potential to steer consumers away from independent operators and into authorised repair networks, creating the perception that they have no choice but to take their vehicle into the authorised repair network.
“The IGA’s concerns are that direct consumer communications of this type have potential for consumer detriment and also have the ability to restrict fair and open competition.”
Speaking about the new MVBEO coming into effect, Andy Hamilton, CEO of the LKQ UK & Ireland Group, which includes LKQ Euro Car Parts, added: “The new MVBEO regulations have delivered on many of the industry’s key requests. It is more comprehensive – now covering software, training and improved access to data and information alongside parts – and it is now shorter in duration, coming up for review again before the end of the decade. This should allow the framework to be updated to keep pace with the rapidly evolving vehicle market.
“This is a real success for the independent aftermarket, where its ability to service modern vehicles was slowly being squeezed by OEMs capitalising on the shortcomings and loopholes of the ageing MVBER framework and advances in vehicle technology that support new business models.