September 17, 2007

European Commission ensures carmakers must give independent garages access to information

Brussels, Belgium – The European Commission (EC) has adopted four decisions that legally bind DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, General Motors and Fiat to commitments to provide technical information about car repairs to all independent garages in the European Union. The commitments were given after an EC investigation found that inadequate access to the full range of technical information could drive independent repairers from the market, and that agreements between carmakers and their authorized repair shops would therefore infringe on EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices.

Attempts at similar legislation in Canada and the U.S., known as “Right to Repair”, are currently ongoing.

The EC commitments will be binding until May 2010, when vehicle emissions regulations come into force. The 2010 regulations place an obligation upon vehicle manufacturers to provide independent repairers with standardized access to all technical repair information.

In its decision, the EC said that without the commitments, resulting reduction in competition between car repairers could lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers, citing that independent repair shops are often cheaper by 50 per cent or more over authorized outlets. In addition, if repairs were carried out without the right technical information, it could lead to vehicles being driven in an unsafe condition, or producing more air pollution and wasted fuel.

“Consumers benefit from competition between repairers, through lower labour charges and cheaper spare parts,” says Neelie Kroes, Competition Commissioner. “These decisions provide a concrete and timely solution to the problems faced by independent repairers, who might lose their ability to compete without access to the relevant technical information.”

The commitments state that all technical information provided to authorized repairers must also be made available to independent repairers, on a non-discriminatory basis; that although car manufacturers may withhold information relating to anti-theft or performance-limiting functions of on-board electronics, they must ensure that this does not prevent independent repairers from performing repairs not directly related to these functions; and that Web sites chosen by the parties as their main means to provide technical information will be kept operational during the validity period of the commitments, with the price for one hour set at a level which ensures equality between independent and authorized repairers. All four manufacturers have undertaken to accept a defined arbitration for mediation mechanism for disputes.

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