The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has presented its final proposal on retained UK Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulations (MVBER) to the Secretary of State, calling for a new UK update that improves upon the original EU system to stay in place until 31 May 2029.
Following Brexit, the UK adopted a number of European Union laws while it looked at preparing its own. One, MVBER, was scheduled to expire in May 2023. The regulations allow for automatic exemptions for certain categories of agreements related to the purchase, sale, and resale of spare parts for motor vehicles, and the provision of repair and maintenance services for motor vehicles.
This means that independent garages should be granted access to specific, and often crucial, repair information from OEMs. If this were to stop, drivers would be forced to visit dealerships for vehicle repairs, increasing their costs and putting many independent workshops out of business.
Customised UK Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulations
The CMA has recommended that MVBER should be replaced with a UK-specific mandate when it expires on 31 May 2023. The UK Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order (MVBEO) would look to embody and improve upon existing legislation, especially when it comes to issues relating to the definitions of ‘spare parts’ and access to technical and vehicle information.
“The CMA is recommending that restrictions on access to technical information be treated in the MVBEO as excluded restrictions,” the recommendations state. “Given the potential for these restrictions to distort competition, such as that between authorised and independent providers, it would be appropriate to ensure that these types of restrictions are carefully self-assessed by businesses on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the specific circumstances.”
The report found that where information required for a repair is not available from other sources, and is supplied direct to authorised repairers, it should also be supplied on an equal basis to independent operators. The CMA noted, however, that “some behaviour by market players may need deeper scrutiny, notably in light of recent market developments concerning the increased importance of data access.”
Aftermarket comes together
The aftermarket industry has been lobbying hard in recent months to ensure that a new block exemption was put in place prior to the expiration of the retained regulations. UK AFCAR was formed by a number of industry bodies and stakeholders to lobby on such proposals.
The consultation on MVBER ran until 22 August this year, with the CMA receiving a total of 14 responses, including UK AFCAR, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK Lubricants Association, and the Independent Garage Association (IGA).
Responding to the suggestions, Stuart James, Chief Executive of the IGA, commented: “We are pleased that the CMA understands there are issues with the existing MVBER which need to be addressed for a new UK MVBEO, including access to technical and in-vehicle information.
“The consultation outcome report recognises that the independent sector is vitally important for allowing consumers the choice of who maintains and repairs their vehicles at a competitive price. It also draws attention to the difficulty that independents currently have accessing the technical and vehicle data they need to repair and maintain vehicles, and that without it, consumers will ultimately be detrimented due to higher prices for repair and maintenance services, a reduction in choice of repair outlets and potential safety problems.”
“Over 70% of all service and repair work is carried out by independent repairers and the MVBEO will ensure their continued access to vehicle data, safeguarding consumers’ rights to repair their cars where they choose for a fair price.”
The Secretary of State will now consider the CMA’s proposals and recommendations, before looking to implement UK MVBEO before the retained regulations expire next year.