Today’s ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) removes the anti-competitive obstacles imposed by vehicle manufacturers and will allow all independent repair shops access to essential car data. This reinforces the importance of a fair and level playing field in the automotive aftermarket and the benefits this brings to consumers.
Certain aftermarket services, including recalibration of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) following windscreen replacement or solving problems indicated by a warning lamp, require access to a car data stream. Some vehicle manufacturers are increasingly obstructing access, creating technical hurdles and requiring payment of licence fees. This adds unnecessary cost and affects free competition in the aftermarket and consumers’ freedom of choice, and can lead to higher prices for consumers.
Carglass, the vehicle glass repair specialists, and ATU, Germany’s largest chain of auto repair shops, originally raised this issue with Regional Court of Cologne in a case against Fiat Chrysler (FCA Italy SpA – “FCA”). As the case involved the interpretation of EU Regulation, the Regional Court of Cologne decided to refer the case to the ECJ.
This decision by the ECJ gives legal certainty throughout the EU. It will be binding for all vehicle manufacturers and independent market players, including Carglass and ATU. This ruling is also expected to be applied within the UK.
Carlos Brito, CEO of Belron*, commented:
“We are delighted by today’s ruling provided by the ECJ. This decision reinforces a fair and level playing field in the automotive aftermarket and the benefits this brings to consumers.
“We believe this ruling will be influential around the world as legislators address right to repair issues created by the rapidly increasing level of connected car technology in vehicles.
“We are committed to working constructively with all vehicle manufacturers to ensure that this ruling is implemented effectively, so that consumers are able to continue to benefit from the competition provided by the independent aftermarket.”
Jean-Pierre Filippini, Managing Director of Carglass Germany, said:
“We now expect all vehicle manufacturers to respect the ECJ´s interpretation of the law and end all restrictions of access to the OBD port immediately, so that we can ensure that the benefits of fair and competitive access to vehicle systems are felt by consumers as soon as possible.”
The replacement of a windscreen is becoming more technically complex in modern vehicles. Currently, around 30% of all vehicles need recalibration of their ADAS when the windscreen has been replaced. This is a number that keeps rising as new cars are fitted with ADAS. In addition, many tasks carried out in a vehicle repair shop (whether repair or maintenance) require that the mechanic has access to the car data stream via the so-called onboard diagnostics (OBD) port. ATU, like all independent repair shops, gets this access using common multi-brand diagnostic devices connected to the OBD port of the vehicle.
A key consideration for the ECJ was the importance of cyber security, and this decision confirms that cybersecurity issues can be addressed adequately by vehicle manufacturers without the need to impose restrictions on the aftermarket.
“Across Belron, cyber security is of paramount importance, and we are constantly working to ensure our systems stay ahead of emerging threats to protect our customers’ personal information and to ensure the safety and security of their vehicles. Customers that bring their vehicles to us trust our ability to carry out our work, which includes connecting to their vehicle through their OBD port, in a high quality and efficient way that will not compromise their safety or cybersecurity. We are confident that vehicle manufacturers such as FCA are able to appropriately manage cyber security risks without needing to unduly restrict access to vehicle systems/data (including via the OBD port), thereby impacting independent aftermarket servicing”, Brito added.
With the ruling of the ECJ, both Carglass, ATU and other independent repair shops will be able to compete with the car manufacturers’ workshops without restrictions as provided by EU law.
Both companies are represented by international legal practice Osborne Clarke.
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Belron is the world’s leading vehicle glass repair, replacement, and recalibration group. Our key brands include Carglass®, Safelite® Autoglass and AutoGlass®. We operate in 37 countries across 6 continents through wholly owned and franchise operations and also manage vehicle glass and other insurance claims on behalf of insurance customers. Belron is home to around 29,000 employees who served 15 million customers in 2022 with a focus on service quality generating a very high level of customer satisfaction. More details are at https://www.belron.com/.
Carglass Germany is a specialist in the repair and replacement of new vehicle glass. In Germany, Carglass employs around 2,000 people, including more than 1,400 in the 370 branches. Around 180 employees work in the customer contact centre. The company processes around 1.2 million customer contacts per year and helps drivers throughout Germany, whether stationary or on the move, with more than 240 mobile units. The company has been part of the international Belron family since 1990 and has been operating as Carglass GmbH since 1993. Belron is the global leader in vehicle glass repair, replacement and recalibration. The group employs around 29,000 people worldwide, more than half of whom are highly qualified fitters, and is present in 37 countries across six continents. In 2022, the company achieved global sales of over 5.6 billion euros.
*Belron is parent company of Carglass® Germany