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NFDA to meet EC competition commissioner on Block Exemption 2010

The National Franchised Dealers Association will be meeting with European Commission competition commissioner Paolo Cesarini later this month to put forward its submission to the Block Exemption 2010 debate.

The submission was signed off by the NFDA’s strategy board last month after a year long consultation during which the NFDA spoke to members, the ICDP and Cesarini himself.

Paul Williams, NFDA chairman, told AM: “At the time of the last Block Exemption review we had half a dozen views; now there is one from the NFDA. We gave everyone a voice and a chance to put their view. All our committee members – around 150 people – have seen the submission and back it.”

NFDA has shared its report, compiled with the help of legal experts Osborne Clarke, with a number of other European trade associations, including ZDK in Germany and BOVAG in Netherlands. It has also been sent to UK consumer body Which?.

“We expect that other countries will accept a lot of the work that the NFDA has done,” said Williams. “We are happy to share the report with any other European country.”

Broadly, the NFDA is in favour of retaining the existing Block Exemption regulation, introduced in 2002, which it believes has given dealers and repairers greater freedom, although it acknowledges that the potential for such freedoms has not yet been fully realised.

But its intention is to preserve and improve access to rights such as multi-franchising, access to competing parts, separation of selective and exclusive distribution, separation of sales and service facilities and effective dispute resolution.

The NFDA also points to the measures introduced that enable dealers and repairers to challenge anti-competitive behaviour by manufacturers, and adds that price convergence, lower car prices and the emergence of new brands in European automotive markets are all successes of current BER.

However, the NFDA is lobbying for a number of refinements to the regulation. It wants to encourage the EC to look more closely at issues such as targets and target setting as well as unauthorised sales channels. It has provided the Commission with details submissions outlining suggestions across a number of areas, but is unwilling to share further details until the meeting with Cesarini later this month.

Sue Robinson, NFDA director, is confident of a positive outcome. “In framing any new rules, we believe the Commission must temper economic theory with an unclouded and practical understanding of the real dynamics of the relationship between the VMs, their suppliers and distributors – and legislate accordingly,” she said. “This will support real competition.”

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