Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Brussels, 6 July 2022

The European Commission launched today a public consultation and a call for evidence inviting all interested parties to comment on its draft proposals for the future of the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation (‘MVBER’) regime. These include (i) a draft Regulation prolonging the validity of the existing MVBER for five years and (ii) a draft Communication introducing targeted updates to the Supplementary Guidelines.

The draft rules follow a review process launched in December 2018, in view of the expiry of the MVBER on 31 May 2023, with the aim of gathering evidence on the functioning of the rules applicable to vertical agreements in the automotive sector. Interested parties are invited to submit their comments on the draft rules by 30 September 2022.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:

The proposed prolongation of the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation for another five years aims at maintaining a regime that has made it easier for businesses in the automotive sector to assess whether their agreements are in line with the EU competition rules. We also propose targeted updates to our Guidelines to address vehicle-generated data which is an essential input for repair and maintenance services. Interested parties are invited to provide their comments, which will help us finalise the rules that are due to enter into force on 1 June 2023.

The proposed changes

As set out in more detail in the explanatory note accompanying the draft Regulation prolonging the MVBER and the draft Communication amending the Supplementary Guidelines, the proposed changes aim to:

  •  Keep the MVBER in place for five additional years and therefore continue to facilitate companies’ self-assessment of their vertical agreements in the automotive sector with EU competition rules. It is likely that, in five years’ time, currently emerging trends, such as those resulting from vehicle digitalisation and new mobility patterns, will have been consolidated. The proposed extension will allow the Commission to re-assess the situation under the new market reality by the new expiry date of the prolonged MVBER (i.e. 31 May 2028).
  •  Make it clear that vehicle-generated data may be an essential input for repair and maintenance services. They will provide clarity for companies concerning the way the Commission views issues related to access to data generated by the cars’ sensors when assessing vertical agreements between vehicle manufacturers and their authorised networks under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’).  The Commission proposes to extend the existing principles for the provision of technical information, tools and training necessary for the provision of repair and maintenance services to explicitly cover vehicle-generated data.
Next steps

More information, including on how to submit a contribution, is available here.

Following the comments by the interested parties on the draft Regulation prolonging the MVBER and the draft Communication amending the Supplementary Guidelines, the Commission will process those and implement any necessary changes in the draft rules with a view to having the final rules in place on 1 June 2023.

Background on the review process

On 28 May 2021, the Commission published an Evaluation Report and Staff Working Document setting out the results of the evaluation of the MVBER regime.

The evaluation showed that the regime had been useful and remained relevant for stakeholders. The evaluation also demonstrated that while the motor vehicle market was likely to evolve in the coming years, there had been no material developments in the last decade that would justify a major revision of the MVBER regime. It revealed however that an update was necessary to reflect the importance that access to vehicle-generated data was likely to have as a factor of competition.

Following this evaluation, in June 2021, the Commission launched the policy making phase of the review, during which it worked on the draft amendments to the regime and consulted National Competition Authorities on the proposed changes.

Background on the MVBER

Vertical agreements are agreements entered into between two or more undertakings operating at different levels of the production or distribution chain, and relating to the conditions under which the parties may purchase, sell or resell certain goods or services.

Article 101(1) TFEU prohibits agreements between undertakings that restrict competition. However, under Article 101(3) TFEU, such agreements can be declared compatible with the Single Market, provided they contribute to improving the production or distribution of goods or to promoting technical or economic progress, while allowing consumers a fair share of the resulting benefits without eliminating competition.

The MVBER states that the Commission’s general regime (i.e. the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation or ‘VBER’) applies to agreements for the distribution of new vehicles. The VBER exempts vertical agreements that meet certain conditions from the prohibition in Article 101(1) TFEU, thus creating a safe harbour for those agreements. The Guidelines on Vertical Restraints provide guidance on how to interpret and apply the VBER and how to assess vertical agreements falling outside the safe harbour of the VBER.

As to agreements relating to the sale or resale of spare parts for motor vehicles or the provision of repair and maintenance services for motor vehicles, the MVBER provides that Article 101(1) TFEU does not apply, so long as these agreements fulfil the requirements for an exemption under the general regime and do not contain any of the clauses listed in the MVBER that remove the benefit of the exemption.

More Information

See the dedicated webpage of DG Competition, which contains summaries of the stakeholder contributions submitted in the context of the evaluation, the Evaluation Report and Staff Working Document, and the study commissioned from an independent contractor to support the evaluation.

Source – EU Commission