What is at stake?
Product monopolies for vehicle manufacturers or
Free and fair competition and freedom of repair for consumers?
What is currently at stake for ECAR is the problem of the extension of design protection granted to a vehicle in the after-sales market of visible “must match” replacement parts.
Competition, which enhances consumer rights, is clearly a public good. But it is threatened by an arcane dispute which risks robbing consumers of their rights: should vehicle manufacturers be able to legitimately invoke intellectual property rights – design rights – to enforce a product monopoly over the supply of visible spare parts?
The European Commission and the European Parliament actively and publicly supported the repairs clause.
The Commission has always been alert to the danger and always sought to rid Europe of monopolies wherever it could. Having once again considered all competition, legal moral and commercial imperatives on this issue of visible spare parts, it again conclusively supported consumer rights and benefits by in 2004 submitting a proposal to adopt a Repairs Clause From Day 1 to amend the “Design” Directive 98/71/CE.
In doing so it emphatically choose the side of all European consumers, by deciding to give them the benefits of competition whilst encouraging the vehicle manufacturers, who dominate this market anyway, to compete in the aftermarket in a free and fair manner.
The Repairs Clause: a fair and balanced solution
A Repairs Clause rightly gives vehicle manufacturers full protection over the design of their new cars. It merely ensures that this protection is not extended to the corresponding visible spare parts. It thus leaves consumers free to repair their vehicles as they wish and avoids creating deleterious spare parts monopolies. And it ensures the rights of spare parts makers to supply parts to consumers in all Member States and in no way restrains the vehicle manufacturers from free and fair completion in the repairs market through tied or independent garages and body shops.