Auto repair shops can set their own prices
Auto repair shops are allowed to deviate from the recommended retail prices for car maintenance services suggested by car importers. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) once more expressly draws the attention of auto repair shops and consumers to this fact. Both often incorrectly assume that these recommended retail prices are mandatory. Auto repair shops hardly take advantage of the opportunities to compete with one another. And consumers may thus unnecessarily pay more for car maintenance services.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, adds: “Auto repair shops are completely free to set their own prices for car maintenance. In practice, however, we see that they often follow the importers’ recommended retail prices. As a result, car maintenance prices for each car brand hardly differ from each other, or even not at all. This is a missed opportunity for repair shop owners themselves, as well as for consumers.”
Dutch car industry supports ACM’s call
The Dutch car industry supports ACM’s call:
RAI Vereniging (association for the Dutch mobility sector): “All car dealers are always free to set their own maintenance prices. That principle is at the heart of a free and fair car market, in which consumers can choose an auto repair shop on the basis of different aspects, including price.”
BOVAG (trade association of car dealers in the Netherlands): “Auto repair shops determine what maintenance prices they charge. Prices that are communicated by manufacturers or car maintenance concepts are merely recommended prices. It is a good thing that ACM points this out to the car industry and consumers.”
Investigation into prices
In late-2016, ACM carried out a preliminary analysis of car maintenance prices charged by certified auto repair shops. That analysis revealed that car maintenance prices for each brand were very similar to each other. In some cases, the car dealers claim that car maintenance prices have been set by the car importers. However, arrangements between importers and repair shops are only allowed if they do not restrict competition.
Discussions with importers
That is why ACM last year contacted the 18 largest importers in the Netherlands. They cooperated actively with us. These discussions revealed that, recommended retail prices are indeed used, but that the importers do not mandate auto repair shops to use fixed prices. Some of the importers have adjusted their communications in order to avoid any suggestion that there is a requirement.
Pricing policies of auto repair shops re-assessed
Earlier this year, ACM re-assessed the pricing policies of auto repair shops. It turned out that various auto repair shops still use similar prices, and that they refer to the pricing policies of their importers. That is why ACM points out to auto repair shops and consumers that the recommended retail prices are not mandatory.