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OFT’s ‘blue box’

Peugeot dealers have won a landmark ruling under the revised block exemption regulations (BER) that could have far reaching implications for other manufacturers.

The Office of Fair Trading, which has responsibility for enforcing BER in the UK, upheld the complaint against Peugeot made by the Retail Motor Industry Federation on behalf of its members over mandatory showroom branding. The issue centres on Peugeot’s ‘blue box’ standards which require dealers to invest in showrooms clad in corporate colours. Dealers complained this would restrict them from adding other franchises because the Peugeot branding is too dominating.

Alan Pulham, RMI franchised dealer director, says “tens of dealers” wrote to the RMI, including large groups and small independents. “This is not just a win for Peugeot dealers, as it also puts in place a precedent that other manufacturers may have to follow. With the growing trend towards multi-franchising, this decision may have far-reaching positive benefits for dealers,” says Pulham. “It applies to anything that might limit a dealer’s ability to clearly market another brand alongside an existing one.”

The OFT is also investigating complaints against other carmakers. Penny Boys, OFT executive director, says: “The position of individual dealers has been strengthened considerably under the new block exemption and it is important that car buyers are allowed to benefit from the changes.”

Peugeot has written to its retail network informing them that the ‘blue box’ dealership programme is highly recommended, but not a mandatory franchise requirement.

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