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Garages warned of VM repairer block

Independent garages that want to become authorised repairers from next month under the new block exemption regulations are likely to be impeded by carmakers, a leading industry analyst is warning.

Piers Trenear-Thomas, client services director for Grant Thornton Motor Retail, says some manufacturers could try to avoid issuing authorised repair contracts to independents until next year because their current network contracts are valid until September 30, 2003.

Under the new rules, which mark the first impact of the changes to block exemption, independent garages can apply for authorised repairer status. From October they can compete with franchised dealers for servicing work.

“There will be a number of businesses ready to become authorised repairers on October 1 and new agreements will be required for authorised repairers,” says Trenear-Thomas. “Manufacturers who try to avoid issuing authorised repair contracts could be unsuccessful for two reasons. Firstly, where there is a conflict between the old and the new there is a chance the commission will make sure the new prevails. Secondly, the argument that there are existing exclusivity service contracts is questionable because the service element of the franchise operation is not exclusive.”

He adds that because the arrangements for existing contracts have to be modified to comply with the new regulations, transitional agreements do not apply. And because the category is only introduced with the new rules, there are no pre-existing authorised repairer contracts.

Nevertheless, carmakers are welcoming the move, with Vauxhall happy to talk to independent garages that want to become authorised repairers.

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