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Monday, 6 October 2014

Dealer Protection Code - Dead in the Water?

The much-vaunted code of conduct to which the Commission encouraged the two sides of the industry to agree after removing the dealer protection measures from the 2010 block exemption, has finally been knocked on the head by ACEA. Auto Retail Network reports the Association’s Legal Director Marc Greven, stating at CECRA’s European Car Dealer Conference in Brussels in late September that the organisation did not plan to agree to a code.
That is not to say that there will never be a code, just that ACEA does not consider that its job includes agreeing one. Mr Greven said it was a contractual matter between manufacturers and their dealers. But if that is the case, what was the draft (at least I had always thought of it as a draft, but it seems I was wrong) code promulgated by ACEA and JAMA supposed to be for? CECRA never liked that much, and of course the manufacturers never liked the dealers’ proposals either. Has the ACEA/JAMA code also been dropped? Apparently not: it is here on ACEA's website (though JAMA don't seem to be mentioned). So ACEA's position appears to be that they don't see it as their job to agree a code with the dealers, but they are happy to produce their own. That sounds like a fundamental difference of opinion between the two sides about what a code of practice is.
The Commission announced last December that if the two sides did not agree, it would impose a solution, and it set the end of this year as a deadline – coinciding with the conclusion of work on the CARS 2020 Project (see Motor Law, volume 13 number 12 and this posting). That looked encouraging, for those who like the idea of a code, but it appears that it failed to take into account that the Commission was up for a replacement in the interim, and as we are seeing now new Commissioners are being appointed as the old ones make their exits. Commissioner Almumia’s parting speech is reported elsewhere in this issue. So along the line, the Commission’s commitment went from a statement of intent to see this through, to reserving the right to introduce legislation on unfair trading practices. Since when, incidentally, did the Commission have to reserve the right to do something within its powers?
Carlo Pettinelli, currently Director of Industrial Innovation and Mobility Industries in DG Enterprise & Industry, did however assure the CECRA Conference that the subject was still firmly in the minds of the people responsible. So action before the year end can still be expected.

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