Latest news

« »

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

MEPs reject vehicle noise amendment

European Voice reports that the European Parliament's environment committee (ENVI, as it is rather bizarrely known) has rejected an attempt to dilute a European Commission proposal for stricter vehicle noise limits, by a single vote. This is the proposal opposition to which in the Parliament seemed to have Porsche's fingerprints all over it (see earlier post).

Czech MEP Miroslav Ouzký, rapporteur for the committee, said after the vote that he will not begin negotiations with member states based on the committee vote. Instead he will try to get the decision reversed in a plenary vote by the full Parliament.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

US: Toyota fined record amount for delay in reporting safety issues

The NHTSA has announced that Toyota has been fined the maximum penalty, $17.4m,  the single highest civil penalty amount ever paid to NHTSA for violations stemming from a recall, for taking too long to report safety issues to the authorities. Federal law requires safety defects to be notified within five days. NHTSA became aware of "floor mat pedal entrapment" issues in early 2012, and approached the manufacturer in May: Toyota admitted that it knew of 63 alleged incidents since 2009, which shows fairly clearly that it had not made the required reports in time.

The agreement between NHTSA and Toyota can be read here.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Motor Law volume 13 number 5

Here are links to more information on some of the stories in the latest edition (which will be in the post very shortly - if you'd prefer to receive your copy electronically a few days earlier, please drop me a line):

Tesla coming to Europe

And - following on from that last posting - Tesla are setting up a European distribution centre in Tilburg, The Netherlands, according to this report from Automotive World. It doesn't say how they will sell the cars, though.

US: Tesla licensed in Massachusets

Tesla wins license to sell cars near Boston, says Automotive World. Not a matter of direct concern to us in Europe, but another illustration of the way dealers are protected in the United States. Tesla's approach to selling cars, which has been compared to Apple's retail operation, cuts right across dealer protection and licensing legislation, and is proving highly contentious (though I can't help feeling that the dealers are trying to stop an incoming tide). Hard to imagine having to obtain a licence to sell cars - hard also for Americans to imagine a manufacturer getting such a licence, as they are supposed to be there to protect dealers ...

Friday, 7 December 2012

ASA rules Halfords' ad misleading

Following a complaint by the SMMT, an advertisement in which Halfords Autocentres claimed that customers would save up to 50% over dealer pricing has been held by  the Advertising Standards Authority to be misleading.  The company has been ordered not to run the advertisement again, and has been instructed to ensure that in future "if it made a comparative claim that was not on a like-for-like basis, it clearly communicated the significant differences between the products or services being compared and did not select the elements of the comparison to give themselves an unrepresentative advantage".

In the complaint, the SMMT argued that the claimed savings were misleading and could not be substantiated.  The advert did not make clear the basis of comparison, nor did it take into account the class of vehicle or regional pricing variations.  It was also doubtful whether the advertiser was comparing services on a like-for-like basis.  According to Halfords, the research had been carried out by a third party which had arranged for a team of mystery shoppers to contact 190 dealerships and get quotes for a full service on a three year old vehicle.  Data were collected for six different classes of vehicle.  Dealers were randomly selected from a database, and there was a quota for each region.

The callers were asked to collect data from the dealers which included the price of a full service, the checks carried out as part of our service, whether a courtesy car was provided, and any promotional offers.

According to Halfords, the make selected for each individual comparison was matched with the garage's franchise.  The results were matched with the nearest Halfords Autocentres by postcode, to ensure the the comparisons with geographically sound. Halfords provided the ASA with all the results that they had collected, but despite all this care, the ASA was not impressed.  According to their spokesman:
We understand that Halfords compared its web prices with the dealers' prices which had been quoted over the telephone.  However, the terms and conditions listed on Halfords website stated " before booking is made directly with the Autocentres, either by telephone or in person, prices may differ".  We also understand that the prices for Halfords for service, as stated in the comparison table supplied, included a £30.00 discount which was available only if the service was booked online and for a limited time only.
We acknowledged that Halfords was willing to amend the claim further, but considered that in its existing form, the comparison Halfords and made between its own time-limited, on-line prices and the non-promotional prices quoted by the car dealerships surveyed was not made on a like-for-like basis.  We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
Grasping at the straw relied on by so many independents who don't seem even to have read it, Halfords argued that the block exemption "regulations" gave aftermarket service providers "every right" to advise motorists have the savings they might make by going to a non-franchised workshop. The regulation does no such thing, although - importantly - it does not prohibit such comparisons. But it certainly doesn't override the ASA's jusrisdiction over misleading advertisements.