Judgement Day: MVBER recommended to stay in place until 2029

Published:  07 October, 2022

The legal framework that allows independent garages to work on cars still under manufacturer warranty, which is due to expire in 2023, should stay in place until 2029, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recommended.

According to the CMA, the Secretary of State should replace the retained EU-derived MVBER with a United Kingdom (UK) Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order (MVBEO). The CMA is recommending that the UK MVBEO be in place until 31 May 2029. It is due to run out on 31 May next year.

A consultation was held on the issue, and a host of sector organisations and suppliers put forward submissions that made the case for the important role the MVBER plays in assuring competition in the sector. They included the ABI and Thatcham Research, Belron, the RAC, TMD Friction the SMMT, the UKLA, the VRA, UK AFCAR, and the IGA.

Welcoming the decision, IGA Chief Executive Stuart James noted: “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. Over 70% of all service and repair work is carried out by independent repairers and the MVBEO will ensure their continued access to vehicle data, safeguarding consumers’ rights to repair their cars where they choose for a fair price.”

According to IAAF Chief Executive Mark Field, it is good news but more clarity is needed: “On first reading of the CMA’s final MV-BEO recommendations, it’s clear and positive that they have listened and noted many of the key arguments outlined by IAAF / UK AFCAR, but the recommendations have yet to explain how the key issue of access to in-vehicle data could be provided. There are also many references in the report to EU related requirements, and we will monitor these closely, so as to avoid regulatory divergence.”

Mark added: “The question of what secondary vehicle type approval legislation will exist within the UK is still very much open. There is a six-year period while the EU and the CMA ‘wait and see’ what the impact on the aftermarket will be, but this is also related to what other (i.e. type approval) legislation will be introduced.”

CEO Andy Hamilton said: “The CMA has recognised the critical role played by independent workshops and bodyshops in providing consumers with choices and, through the competition this creates with dealerships, lower prices. This is without mentioning the 350,000 livelihoods the independent aftermarket supports and its significant contribution to the UK economy.

“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. This is becoming ever more critical and we are glad that this will be enshrined in law.

“A new definition for ‘Access to technical and vehicle information’ is also being addressed for the first time, although as an excluded restriction it will require a degree of self-assessment by the OEMs. But, they will have to use the proposed updated guidance to distinguish what’s exempt and what isn’t. We are reassured that the CMA clearly understands that certain types of technical and vehicle information amount to an essential input, without which independent technicians are unable to diagnose and repair faults.

“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.”

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes added: “SMMT welcomes the CMA’s recommendation that a mechanism for providing assurance and certainty to businesses operating in the automotive sector should replace, but remain broadly in line with, the European Motor Vehicle Block Exemption due to expire in May next year. The opportunity for further dialogue and consultation on proposed guidance is also welcome and SMMT looks forward to engaging with the CMA to ensure future regulation works for the sector.

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