Consumer protection: “Motorists must no longer be ripped off”

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"Drivers are no longer allowed to be ripped off"

Consumer protection: "Motorists must no longer be ripped off"-ADAC denounces usury spare parts

Treasure chest: a trunk full of spare parts is the dream of every classic car fan. With newer models, automakers can reach out for visible replacement parts

Source: Bosch

The fronts in the fight for cheaper spare parts have hardened. ADAC, parts suppliers, car dealerships and insurers get mobile: The Chancellor and the car manufacturers against the rest of the world.

W.As less and less money is earned from the sale of cars, the carmakers now want to cannibalize another business area in the automotive industry: the spare parts trade. Because it promises breathtaking profit margins, as a comparison impressively shows. According to research by the ADAC, a fender for a Ford Focus is offered on the aftermarket for 170 euros, in the free trade it costs only 67 euros. Or a bumper for the Golf VI: the original VW part is available for 317 euros, at independent dealers it costs just 122 euros.

Unfortunately, the driver cannot benefit from the cheaper replicas with visible spare parts. Due to design protection, car dealerships are currently only allowed to install original parts from the vehicle manufacturer. A broad alliance of consumer advocates such as ADAC, vehicle workshops, the Gesamtteileverband Automobil-Handel (GVA) and insurers advocate a softening of the "billion-dollar monopoly of car manufacturers" (ADAC). The aim should be to create competition – and thus reduce costs for drivers.

Medium-sized suppliers who supply spare parts such as oil and air filters, brake pads, shock absorbers or mufflers also want to overturn the design protection. The parts boxes ennobled with the Mercedes star, Audi rings and Ford plum contain products from Bosch, Hella, Continental, TRW or ZF, which not only deliver to the assembly lines as original equipment manufacturers, but also to the independent aftermarket and workshop chains. There, the same oil filter or V-belt without a VW or Opel logo is usually much cheaper over the counter than in the branded workshop.

Suppliers cede design rights to automakers

The fact that the market has not yet opened is due to the lobby of the car manufacturers. They are represented by the influential Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). The lobby group insists on strict compliance with a kind of copyright law because the design and functionality of the fenders, bonnet, windshield and headlights were conceived in the large factories, as the VDA argues. The suppliers must assign all rights to the design in the contracts with the manufacturers.

In large parts of the EU, however, there is already brisk competition. The European design protection guideline 98/71 / EG aimed for a uniform regulation in 1998 and advocated a repair clause that would allow independent parts manufacturers to reproduce such parts without violating design protection, more precisely design protection.

On December 12, 2007, the EU Commission passed the following resolution: “There is no design protection for a pattern built into a product that is a component of a complex product and is used solely with the aim of enabling this complex product to be repaired to give it its original appearance again. "

Self coalition for liberalization

But this consumer-friendly proposal failed in the European Council due to objections from Germany, France, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Romania, even though a number of EU countries, for example Great Britain, Italy, Spain and the Benelux countries, had already completely liberalized their spare parts markets.

France and Germany are fighting most violently against opening up the spare parts trade. In Brussels, this is met with incomprehension, even among German traffic experts. Markus Ferber, chairman of the CSU group in the European Parliament, says: “Consumers must have the freedom to buy spare parts from a dealer of their choice in the event of repairs. Anything else would be a promise for the monopoly position of the car companies. "

According to ADAC President Peter Meyer, there is also in Berlin In large parts of the CDU / CSU and FDP there is a consensus that design protection in the motor vehicle sector must fall. Only the Chancellery is slowing down. There is no need for action, as its boss Roland Pofalla recently told the automobile club on request. And the German motor vehicle trade (ZDK) negotiated a rebuff from Chancellor Angela Merkel through Ministerial Director Michael Wettengel. Meyer thinks it is likely that the former minister and VDA boss Matthias Wissmann will use all his influence.

Risk of product piracy

How much the VDA opposes liberalization became clear once again after the design protection opponents met in Berlin for a background discussion last week. The umbrella organization once again made it clear: “In the EU as well as in the important export markets of the German automotive industry, industrial property rights are an indispensable basis for marketing their innovative models.” accept such as the risk of product piracy, which is difficult to contain, especially in emerging countries ".

The ADAC recognizes that there must be copyright protection, but the customer has already paid for the design once because it was priced in when the automobile was purchased. If it were to be asserted again for a spare part, "the customer would be fleeced twice," says club boss Meyer.

All parts with operating permit

Proponents of a repair clause consider the projections by the VDA that liberalization would put up to 100,000 jobs at vehicle manufacturers and suppliers at risk in Europe to be far exaggerated. "In the worst case, there will be a zero-sum game, at best more jobs will be created because additional competition is created," says GVA President Hartmut Rohl.

Even the argument that spare parts in the free trade are of inferior quality or even pose a security risk, Wilhelm Hulsdonk, the federal guild master of the motor vehicle trade, does not apply. "We are not aware of any case in which there were complaints." All parts approved in Germany have been checked and have a kind of operating permit. "The design protection neither prevents product piracy nor does quality assurance, because design issues are not about the structural properties such as material and accuracy of fit, but only about the external shape."

Enormous savings potential

In its comparison between original parts and parts from the free trade, the ADAC found price differences between 16 and 40 percent. Last but not least, the insurers therefore see great potential for savings. The repair costs of 13.4 billion euros incurred by all companies in 2012 included five billion euros in replacement parts costs. Of this, in turn, 2.4 million euros went to design-protected parts.

Peter Meyer appealed to the federal government to “no longer bow to the pressure of the German automotive industry and finally to agree to the proposal of the EU Commission. The consumption can no longer be ripped off. "

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