Competition – Extended warranty contracts

The Portuguese Competition Authority (PCA) adopted a decision (Press Release 6/2016), on 29 February 2016, which renders legally binding the commitments offered by FCA Portugal, S.A. (Fiat) regarding motor vehicles warranties – the Fiat’s extended warranty contracts had a clause which prevented consumers from having repair and maintenance work carried out by independent repairers, if not to lose the right to the manufacturer’s warranty. PCA put an end to the investigated behaviors by accepting the commitments offered by Fiat, on 18 February 2016.[1]

This decision confirms the PCA’s common understanding, revealed in the previous cases of Peugeot [2], SEAT [3] and SIVA [4] (Audi, VW and Skoda’s official importer and distributor in Portugal) that the clauses, in the extended warranty contracts, which prevent consumers from having repair and maintenance work carried out by independent repairers are not admissible under the competition rules for infringement of Article 9 of Competition Law. According to PCA, the agreement between the car manufacturer and its dealers and/or the official repairs network may result in the closure of independent car repair shops, which may influence the prices paid by consumers for vehicle maintenance services.

As a complement, and according to the previous decisions above mentioned, PCA admits that the clause may potentially infringe Article 101 of the TFEU, as far as the restriction can have an effect on trade between the Member States.

In the SEAT and SIVA’s decisions, PCA considered that the possibility to affect trade between the Member States was verified, taking into account the behavior in question and the identified relevant market, which was the “car maintenance and repair services’ market of the trade mark at issue for the entire national territory”, and in accordance with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the national dimension of the agreements reinforces the segmentation or the partitioning of markets on national basis affecting trade between the Member States.

In the case of SEAT, the case was closed, because they reviewed their contracts by eliminating the restriction before the opening of the procedures. In the cases of SIVA and Fiat, the investigated behaviors were ended because PCA accepted the commitments offered by them, such as the obligation of non-insertion, in their contracts, of any clause limiting the exercise of the extended warranty rights to the repair and maintenance work carried out only within the relevant official repair networks and, for this purpose, the client shall present the invoice and/or other document proving that the repairer fulfilled the official marks’ maintenance book. 



[1] A copy of the PCA’s decision has not been disclosed yet.

[2] PRC 2013/05 – Peugeot Portugal – Automóveis, S.A.

[3] PRC 2015/03 – SEAT Portugal, Unipessoal, Lda.

[4] PRC 2015/05 – SIVA Sociedade de Importação de Veículos Automóveis, S.A.

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