ACar companies will have less influence on dealers in the future. In a ruling by the Supreme Court in Vienna this week, a first instance ruling by the Vienna Cartel Court against the French car manufacturer PSA is confirmed. The second largest car company in Europe was convicted of abuse of its dominant position vis-à-vis Austrian dealers. PSA includes Peugeot and Opel, among others. An Austrian dealer sued the general importer Peugeot Austria at the end of 2018 because he – like many other Peugeot dealers in Europe – suffers from oppressive requirements from PSA.
Now PSA has to stop linking premium payments to dealers with customer satisfaction surveys in new vehicle sales. In addition, it is necessary to stop reducing the dealers’ margin if they do not achieve deliberately inflated sales targets by PSA and if PSA companies compete with dealers with subsidized vehicle prices on the end customer market. In the workshop operation, the overly complex control system of PSA as well as non-cost-covering hourly rates, which make guarantee and warranty work unprofitable for the dealers, must be turned off. Ultimately, PSA is also not allowed to pass on the costs of its mystery shopping to the retailers. The unilateral restriction of the retailer’s freedom to set prices through the economic compulsion to participate in promotions is also confirmed.
In its resolution, the Supreme Court emphasizes that the removal order applies not only to the case in hand, but also with regard to all contractual relationships in which there are similar dependencies, and sees a not inconsiderable need for changes in PSA’s remuneration system. The Supreme Court also clearly points out the parallel applicability of European antitrust law.
For the future, PSA’s remuneration system must now be adapted and newly agreed. The industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer assesses the judgment as groundbreaking for the European automotive industry. The plaintiff was represented in the proceedings before the cartel courts by the Viennese lawyer Peter Thyri, who specializes in Austrian and European cartel and competition law. He sees effects beyond the automotive industry. Thyri argues that it is conceivable that other national competition authorities would also apply the legal principle of abuse of conditions in unilateral contractual relationships in the vehicle industry and beyond.