Egea General Assembly October 2020 and nominations of membership positions
Egea's second General Assembly of 2020, held on 29 October, was also held on a web-based platform, due to the Covid restrictions currently affecting the whole of Europe; nevertheless, the Assembly saw the lively participation of almost all members. After President Dave Garrat's welcoming speech, the sponsors took the “stage” and illustrated their activities. Automechanica, Autopromotec and Equip'Auto presented their extensive web programmes confirming that, despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus, the sector remains vital and dynamic. In addition to the traditional exhibitions rescheduled for new dates, all of the above-mentioned trade shows have understood the importance that suppliers and users meet, at least virtually, to keep up to date with the latest market developments albeit in a virtual platform. After the sponsors, it was time to examine the financial situation: Treasurer Leon Andriessen pointed out that EGEA’s management had already succeeded in reducing structural costs in 2020, thus freeing up additional resources to support the activities of the working groups, especially in the field of free competition and data access, which affects, one way or another, all members. The President then led the proceedings on the nominations of membership positions: seven candidates, from as many national associations, were all unanimously elected by the Assembly. The list of new board advisors includes two new members: Rafal Sosnowski from the Polish STM and Julian Woods from the British GEA, replacing Michel Vervekken and Dave Garrat, to whom the Assembly expressed its appreciation for their many years of fruitful service in Egea. The next item on the agenda represented a key issue for the whole sector: free access to vehicle Obd ports and what to do to protect the rights of independent equipment manufacturers. Secretary General Jordi Brunet and Chairman Elvis Colla explained the scope and scale of the problem and proposed possible actions previously analysed with the help of specially appointed consultants. Then it was time for an update on Egea's numerous activities by the Chairmen of the various working groups. First was the forthcoming completion of the new European standard EN1493:2010 for garage lifts, illustrated by group leader Fausto Manganelli. This was followed by a spotlight on the 'good practice manual' for Adas, now being finalised, as explained by group leader Pete Bradley. Elvis Colla, Head of the Diagnostics Group, then reported on the vast and complex work being carried out with the European Commission and United Nations (UNECE) on free data access. Group leader Georges Petelet reported on the new emission tests planned as well as possible future ones. Good news about the CEN prEN 17347 safety standard for tire-changers, as explained by Rolando Vezzani, which is expected to be put to a final public vote within the next few days. After updates on the activities related to suspension tests, the vice-president Frank Beaujean presented the proposal for a European standard protocol "The Network". Finally, group leader Imre Makra proposed a few changes to headlight test procedures thanks to a positive collaboration with Cita, the international organisation for periodic inspections. Egea's activities as a whole paint a rich and articulated picture, albeit very challenging; it is thanks to the competence, commitment and willingness of many companies and their specialised personnel that these vital activities are completed and can be forwarded to the competent European and national authorities as state-of-the-art, feasible and economically advantageous proposals. The meeting closed with the definition of the next meeting date, which will be April 8, 2021, with the hope that it will be possible to meet in person again. Following the Assembly, the new Board of Directors, according to the statute, defined the new positions. As usual, the Board was unanimous in appointing Thierry Coton as new president, Frank Beaujean and Massimo Brunamonti as vice-presidents, and confirmed Leon Andriessen as treasurer. Specific proxies were also assigned to board members, including Jaume Berenguer, Rafal Sosnowski and Julian Woods. The whole Association and its members welcomed the new president: Thierry Coton, vice-president of the French association GIEG and president of Capelec, a leading manufacturer of emission testing and analysis equipment, who boasts almost thirty years of experience in the sector and a long activism in Egea; this is a guarantee that Coton will be able to lead Egea in the next two years towards accomplishing the association’s ambitious goals.
Ber renewal: European Commission consultations launched
It was 2002 when, to the surprise of many, the European Union adopted Regulation 1400/2002 (known as the "Ber - Block Exemption Regulation"), which had a major impact on the entire motor vehicle repair sector. The Regulation, better known as the "Monti Decree" in this part of the world, from the name of the then Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, proved a turning point: on the one hand, it introduced exceptions to the block on vertical sales agreements, which are in themselves banned by the laws on free competition, and, on the other, it introduced ground-breaking rules guaranteeing competition in the after-sales sector, something that was welcomed by independent operators in particular. The impact of the Regulation was huge as demonstrated by the fact that it was renewed in 2010. Here too, against all odds, the European Commission, with Regulation 461/2010 (known as the "new BER"), deemed it appropriate to continue protecting the motor vehicle repair sector against possible dominant positions. And now, the next phase; Regulation 461/2010 expires in 2023. What will happen then? The European Commission has already launched the necessary investigations to determine the future steps. After a first restricted consultation at the beginning of the year, a public consultation with all stakeholders and operators in the sector was launched in mid-October in order to ascertain whether the BER standard has in fact achieved the expected results. The consultation, which will end on January 25, 2021 and which is attracting a high level of participation given the scope of the issue, is based on assessment criteria covering all aspects of the matter: effectiveness in achieving the objectives, cost-effectiveness, current importance of the issue, coherence with the body of EU law and the added value generated. The outcome of the consultation and the subsequent assessments by the Commission are far from certain. The scenario is open to any conclusion: from a mere renewal to possible modifications or even a possible expiry without replacement. Whatever the choice, the direct and indirect consequences will be far from negligible. Just a simple example: the type-approval regulations for motor vehicles (latest Regulation 858/2018); if these include prescriptions on who, when and how Obd ports can be accessed - we owe this to the Ber and its focus on the need for free competition according to European Treaties – without which we might not have had the 858 as we know it. However, in spite of this, more and more car and commercial vehicle manufacturers are introducing limitations and discrimination that are of dubious legitimacy to say the least (see article Pneurama 3/2020: "Egea meets the European Commission on free access to the Obd port"). But there is more. Let us look at another example: think of the growing role that shared mobility will undoubtedly play in the very near future. Shared mobility means long or short rentals, multi-users and more. This means fleets managed by specialised operators. And who looks after and maintains these fleets and under what conditions? In such a scenario, the temptation to acquire a dominant market position is certainly tempting and it is therefore increasingly necessary for the legislator not to abdicate its role as guardian of free competition in the interests of European citizens. The vastness and complexity of the subject, which affects the sector as a whole, is extremely delicate and will require numerous stages during which discussions will undoubtedly be intense. The implications of such a regulation are such that every single sentence and word will have to be weighed, and if they are wrong, they could immediately have damaging implications for competitiveness or the very existence of independent operators. Trade associations, without exception, are all already hard at work, all of them obviously defending their own interests. The European Commission has always had a listening ear towards public and organised sector representatives, such as Egea, as authoritative stakeholders and therefore authorised to make their voices heard. We hope that the debate will continue openly and publicly to ensure that the legislator will understand the real needs of all citizens.