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Block Exemption is 'consumer safeguard'

Japanese carmakers have issued a firm statement claiming that Block Exemption, due for renewal in 2002, “acts as a safeguard for consumers, dealers and automakers by providing a strict but clear and predictable legal framework”.

The Japanese viewpoint is being pressed in Brussels by the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Shigeru Sasaki, JAMA Europe director-general, said: “We think Block Exemption has succeeded in ensuring strong competition between manufacturers to the direct benefit of consumers.”

Mr Sasaki said customers benefited from a wide choice of competitive products, increasingly made to order and “the comfort of knowing their vehicles are maintained and serviced by experts to high safety and environmental standards”.

He added: “Dealers have access to a system with clear contract terms, dispute settlement procedures and release from brand exclusivity obligations. These factors play an important role in protecting their investments in sales and aftersale operations.”

The JAMA intervention in the Block Exemption debate comes within a few weeks of European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti issuing a strongly worded warning to carmakers suggesting he was considering wholesale changes to the legislation.

Two Japanese carmakers, Nissan and Honda, are in the midst of a wide-ranging review of their continental European dealer networks. Honda has terminated all its dealer contracts in Germany while Nissan is coming to terms with a new dealer structure which will be dominated by controlling partner Renault.

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