CMA recommends new UK-specific Block Exemption regulations

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Independent garages must be able to “exert vital competitive pressure on authorised repairers”, CMA concludes

The existing Motor Vehicle Block Exemption (MVBER) should be replaced with an updated UK-specific Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order (MVBEO) and stay in place until 2029, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recommended.

The CMA announced details of its proposed plan following a consultation over changes to the existing retained Motor Vehicle Block Exemption (MVBER) – initially carried over from EU law following Brexit – came to an end at the end of August.

The MVBER is due to expire in the UK on May 31, 2023.

The CMA said independent repairers must be allowed to “continue to exert vital competitive pressure on authorised repairers” to ensure consumers enjoy choice in provision and prices, adding: “These operators can only continue to exert such pressure if they have access to key inputs such as spare parts, tools, training, technical information and in-vehicle generated data.”

More than 70 per cent of all service and repair work is carried out by independent repairers, according to the Independent Garage Association (IGA).

Stuart James, chief executive of the IGA said: “We are pleased that the CMA understands there are issues with the existing MVBER which need to be addressed for a new UK MVBEO, including access to technical and in-vehicle information.

“The consultation outcome report recognises that the independent sector is vitally important for allowing consumers the choice of who maintains and repairs their vehicles at a competitive price.

“It also draws attention to the difficulty that independents currently have accessing the technical and vehicle data they need to repair and maintain vehicles, and that without it, consumers will ultimately be detrimented due to higher prices for repair and maintenance services, a reduction in choice of repair outlets and potential safety problems.”

A spokesman added: “The CMA has recognised the critical role played by independent workshops and bodyshop’s in providing consumers with choices and, through the competition this creates with dealerships, lower prices.

“In particular, we welcome the proposed update to the definition of ‘spare parts’, to include all software, together with activation and configuration codes for replacement parts and components.

“Fundamentally, competition is dependent on the existence of a level playing field between authorised and independent operators, which means fair and shared access to essential inputs such as spare parts and technical and vehicle information. The detailed wording of the guidance will therefore be critical.

“The CMA clearly acknowledges this and is taking steps to account for the technological developments of recent years – while building more flexibility into the guidance of the proposed new MV-BEO, which will also have a shorter duration, enabling another full review in six years – not ten as was the case under the previous EU regime.”

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