The EC said the current lack of technical information makes it difficult for independent workshops to compete and carry out work on more complex cars, thereby potentially limiting European consumers' choice of local repair shops.
The carmakers in question are DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, General Motors and Fiat, which have all agreed to create commitments to address the problem (click here to download their proposals).
If the results of this market test are positive, the EC intends to adopt decisions under Article 9(1) of Regulation 1/2003 declaring the four sets of commitments to be binding.
The EC is concerned that the market position of independent repairers in the EU is being ‘eroded’, leaving them less able to ‘exert effective competitive pressure on the carmakers' own repair networks’.
The issue of access to technical information was specifically addressed in the EC's block exemption Regulation 1400/2002. Article 4(2) of the Regulation provides that dealer and repairer agreements can only be covered by the block exemption if the car manufacturer in question provides independent operators with technical information in a non-discriminatory, prompt and proportionate manner.
The EC therefore conducted an in-depth investigation, which showed that information provision by the four firms in question appeared problematic both as regards the scope of the information, and its accessibility. The investigation covered the Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Toyota, Opel and Vauxhall brands.
In the EC's preliminary view, this lack of access to technical information could reinforce the foreclosure effects of the agreements concluded between these manufacturers and their after-sales service partners, and so pose a serious threat to the competitive position of independent repairers.