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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Snap Queen's Speech

Following the snap election, a snap Queen's Speech - with little of direct, specific interest to the motor industry in it, but a lot about Brexit. More on that another time. Much more on that, at other times, I should say.

What there is to interest the motor industry is a proposed Civil Liability Bill, which will bring down the cost of insurance premiums by reducing the cost and quantity of whiplash claims. It will introduce a new fixed compensation tariff for whiplash injuries for up to two years, and will ban offers to settle claims without supporting of medical evidence.

There will also be an Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which will require the installation of charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers. It will also include a set of common technical and operational standards which will ensure that charging points are convenient and work seamlessly right across the UK.

Compulsory motor vehicle insurance will also be extended to cover the use of automated vehicles, to ensure compensation claims continue to be paid quickly, fairly and easily, in line with longstanding insurance practice.

BMW win appeal in Technosport trade mark case

Almost exactly a year ago, on 17 June last year, we reported a case in the Intellectual Property enterprise Court in whcih BMW had sued a company called Technosport London for trade mark infringement and passing off. At the time, we questioned why such a case might even have got to court, but noted that the defendant won on one count of trade mark infringement although it lost on three and on passing off. Now BMW has won its appeal on the claim on which it lost first time round.

Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft v Technosport London Ltd & Anor [2017] EWCA Civ 779 (21 June 2017)

EU: Lighting manufacturers penalised for cartel

The European Commission has imposed a €27 million penalty on two suppliers of car lighting for operating a cartel, contrary to Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Automotive Lighting and Hella have to pay €16.3 and €10.4 million respectively for their part in the cartel. A third cartel member, Valeo, escaped a financial penalty, which the Commission indicated woulod have been over €30.5 million, because it revealed the existence of the cartel.

Reuters says that the parties discussed quotes for tenders and negotiation strategies and exchanged information on the status of negotiations with customers regarding price increases.

The EU press release is here.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Amazon plan to disrupt the car market

So, as reported in Auto Retail Network and lots of other places, Amazon are planning to enter the car market using the UK as a guinea pig (or, perhaps, proof of concept). Maybe the time is ripe with the country set to distance itself from the system of competition law that allows vehicle manufacturers and importers to restrict supplies to authorised dealers. The block exemption has not been popular in the UK, initially because it enabled suppliers to charge higher prices here than on the continent (something tells me that the sort of mindset that caused car buyers to head off to Belgium or The Netherlands back in the eighties might well have led them to vote leave in 2016 - but it's no more than a feeling). Maybe Brexit will be an opportunity to shake up what is seen by many as an unjustifiably privileged sector, insulated from normal competitive pressures.

Amazon have tried in a small way to sell cars before (Fiats in Italy: how could that go wrong?). Tesco have tried online car sales for a short time, and there have been other attempts to use ecommerce to cut out the middleman. Further back in history, there was Asdadrive, which emerged in the mid-eighties and made scarcely a ripple - and has disappeared so comprehensively that there's almost nothing to be found on the Internet save for some Companies House records.

It is trite to remark that selling cars is not like selling baked beans. You don't trade in your previous beans when you buy a new can, for a start. There is no continuing servicing and repair requirement, no market for spare parts, no way of adding accessories, no opportunity to sell financial services ("products", as they are weirdly called) as well. (Or, to put it another way, these days the cars are often ancillary to the financial services). For these reasons selective distribution remains the optimal way to service a complicated market, although those complications change over time as service intervals become longer, cars become more reliable, and the chances of effecting an economic repair when a prang occurs tend towards zero. (The bumper is supposed to save the car from damage, but the sensors now mounted in it make replacement prohibitively expensive.) So Amazon might find that they have bitten off more than they can chew, though with sales and service being separated by the block exemption the landscape is different from that which faced Asdadrive. Maybe, as Brexit approaches, this will be seen as an excuse to dispense with the block exemption - a  move that could be dressed up as consumer benefit, potentially a popularist aspect of leaving the EU. And another chicken that would come home to roost a few years later, I suspect.

'via Blog this'

Monday, 19 June 2017

Everything you ever wanted to know about the emissions scandal (in French)

I make no apology for saying that the emissions scandal has left me nonplussed, often not knowing quite how to react to the latest news, what to write, what to think. The sheer volume of news on the subject is daunting. I was therefore pleased to find a newspaper which has conveniently collected together all its stories on the topic. Unfortunately it's Le Monde - perhaps there is also an English one, although I trust Le Monde a bit more than most English papers. If you wish to see what Le Monde has published on the subject, here's the link.

US: EPA suspected FCA defeat device in 2015

The EPA reportedly told Fiat Chrysler that it suspected that some of its vehicles had defeat devices as long ago as November 2015, according to reports in Automotive News based on recently-disclosed emails. Does that even count as news, I wonder? The emails do.

Meanwhile, AN reports that the Department of Justice has announced that approval of FCA's software fix to deal with emissions problems may take months. It also reports that the same institution that identified the VW problem says that FCA diesel vehicles emit up to twenty times as much pollution as they should. The manufacturer faces a civil suit from the government which it is estimated could cost it as much as $1 billion - and it is not exactly flush with cash.

Last month, a lawyer for FCA told a US court that a software fix could overcome the problem.

'via Blog this'

Friday, 16 June 2017

Dieselgate: extended warranty but no compensation for VW owners

The European Commission has announced that VW is offering an additional two-year warranty but nothing in the way of compensation for owners of cars affected by the Dieselgate scandal. Reports in Just Auto indicate that this has been agreed with the European Commission's consumer affairs directorate, but it seems that it is only an offer - and the Commissioner, Vera Jourová, remains intent on persuading the manufacturer that it should offer compensation, while respecting the fact that there is no legal basis on which they can be required to do so. Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004, which is the EU legislation most obviously engaged in the matter, deals with co-operation between Member States on consumer matters. (Presumably owners of VW diesels did not vote Leave.)