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Concessionnaires: Peugeot Autriche condamné pour abus de position dominante (Cecra)

Constructeurs, Services

Primes liées à des enquêtes de satisfaction client, marges variables en fonction des objectifs, mise en concurrence avec les filiales bénéficiant de prix VN subventionnés, gestion des retours en garantie non rentable, répercussion sur les concessionnaires des coûts des visites mystère: autant de motif de condamnation de Peugeot Autriche que le Cecra salue comme une décision de la cour suprême autrichienne applicable dans toute l'Europe...

 

(extrait du communiqué du Cecra - version intégrale en Anglais ci-dessous)

(...) La Cour suprême souligne également clairement l'applicabilité parallèle du droit européen de la concurrence et conclut sur la constatation d'une position dominante de la part de l'importateur ainsi que sur le traitement des clauses abusives dans les relations contractuelles en vertu de l'article 102 TFUE. Le système de rémunération de PSA doit être adapté dans le délai fixé par la Cour suprême.

(...) Pour les réseaux d'autres marques - en particulier ceux du groupe Stellantis nouvellement formé directement concernés par la décision - le jugement peut servir de directive précieuse pour la sécurité juridique. Il faudra également évoquer la manière dont de nombreux concessionnaires Peugeot soumis aux conditions abusives peuvent être remboursés de la perte de rémunération qu'ils ont subie au fil des ans en raison de la violation par PSA de l'interdiction d'abus de position dominante.

(...) Le CECRA et son membre autrichien WKÖ saluent la décision de la Cour suprême comme une percée dans leur lutte de dix ans pour plus d'équité dans la relation constructeur-concessionnaire sur les marchés automobiles autrichiens et européens. Surtout à la lumière de tous les changements et défis radicaux actuels, le jugement ouvre la voie à un nouveau partenariat dans l'industrie automobile.

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(version inégrale en anglais du communiqué Cecra)

Brussels, 26/03/2021

Austrian Supreme Court rules that Peugeot Austria has abused market power against  independent dealers 
Source: Competition Counseling & Research Peter Thyri  

On March 22, 2021 the Austrian Supreme Cartel Court upheld the Cartel Court‘s earlier decision of May 12, 2020 in a legal dispute between Austrian Peugeot dealer Büchl and Peugeot Austria (PSA), that the general importer for Peugeot vehicles in Austria abused its market power vis-à-vis Büchl in violation of Austrian and European competition law. Büchl had turned to the cartel court because, like many other Peugeot dealers in Austria and Europe, it claimed to suffer from PSA‘s suffocating system of requirements and non-transparent reimbursement conditions.

The Supreme Court has banned Peugeot from tying the dealer‘s premium payments to customer satisfaction surveys; reducing the dealer‘s margin if they do not reach sales targets inflated by PSA and competing with dealers through subsidized vehicle prices on the end customer market at PSA’s own, vertically integrated sales outlets. Also, an elaborate control system for guarantee and warranty work and hourly rates that did not cover the dealers costs is prohibited, as those measures make guarantee and warranty work unprofitable for dealers. Finally, PSA may no longer pass on the costs of its mystery shopping and audit system for the new car and workshop business to dealers.

The Supreme Court recognizes that PSA economically forces dealers to take part in promotions and thereby restricting dealers’ freedom of setting their own prices. While the Cartel Court of first instance is requested to further complete its findings and decide anew as to this point, all the other points are now legally binding and must be implemented by PSA within three months time.

The Supreme Court stresses that its decision applies to all contractual relationships in which similar economic dependencies exist and awaits considerable changes in the remuneration system of PSA. The Supreme Court also clearly points to the parallel applicability of European competition law and elaborates on the finding of a dominant position on the part of the importer as well as on the treatment of abusive clauses in contractual relationships under Art 102 TFEU.

PSA's remuneration system must be adjusted within the deadline set by the Supreme Court. For other brands ‘networks – especially those of the newly formed Stellantis-Group directly affected by the decision – the judgement can serve as a valuable guideline to legal safety. It will also have to be discussed how numerous Peugeot dealers subject to the abusive conditions can be reimbursed for the loss in remuneration they suffered over the years as a consequence of PSA’s violation of the prohibition to abuse a dominant position.

CECRA and its Austrian member WKÖ welcome the decision of the Supreme Court as a breakthrough in their decade-long struggle for more fairness in the manufacturer-dealer relationship in Austrian and European car markets. Especially in light of all current radical changes and challenges, the judgment paves the way for a new partnership in the automotive industry.