The Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Has Been Extended

Jack Dreyer | Friday 21st July 2023 12:30pm

In 1998, the government passed the Competition Act to bring UK law in line with EU regulations designed around hindering anti-competitive, monopolistic practices. A key component of this was the growing tendency for auto manufacturers to limit the availability of replacement parts, access to maintenance & repair manuals, essentially locking drivers into service & maintenance plans with specific manufacturer garages.

In theory, it makes sense to take your car to the ‘approved’ garage because of the perception that they’ll be the experts for your particular car brand. In reality, however, the fact was that these garages could be hours away, and almost all the repair work on any car could be done perfectly well by any suitably qualified technician – so long as they had access to the correct diagnostic equipment, parts, and repair guides, of course.

What’s more, the cost of these service plans could be as high as the dealership wanted; you were contractually or technically obliged to only use the approved garage for fear of voiding the car’s warranty so you couldn’t go elsewhere if you weren’t happy about the price.

Drivers were stuck, then, with either a broken car, a heavily dented wallet, or a voided warranty that could see them paying out for manufacturer defects – between a rock and a hard place indeed!

The Competition Act, and the Motor Vehicle Block Exemptions Regulations (MVBER) that came with it, proved to be a huge benefit for drivers, as well as independent and franchised garages like us, because we were then able to offer quality maintenance and repair services that didn’t void your manufacturer warranty – all at an affordable price and with the same great customer service.

Why did the MVBEO need to be extended?

The Exemption Order was due to expire on the 31st May 2023, so was updated and renewed on the 1st June to keep it in line with the fast evolving UK Auto Industry. A key component here has been to specifically include access to necessary software within the regulation. As cars become more and more technologically advanced, the software they build to control all the car’s components has become a complicated (and increasingly closed) system in itself.

We engaged with a number of industry bodies such as the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) and the UK Alliance for Freedom of Car Repair (AFCAR) in order to help lobby the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to change different wordings and phrasing used throughout the legislation. We’re happy to say that we were able to secure a number of important changes such as using the term “fluids” instead of simply “lubricants”, as well as referring to “full repair and maintenance information” rather than simply “technical data”.

Technical data is helpful but, on its own, it’s often not very usable.

This extension will be in effect until 31st May 2029, when it will be reviewed again.

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