VCL was offered 8% on 323 and 626 ranges and 5% on the rest. Keepfer said: 'A number of dealers confirmed in written replies that these discounts were 'standard terms', 'in line with the Mazda Cars mandate' and 'set by Mazda'. Such practices are, of course, unlawful and contravene the Resale Prices Act. The EC Block Exemption Regulations also clearly state that the exemption shall not apply where the manufacturer restricts the dealer's freedom to determine prices and discounts in reselling contract goods.
'In a case where the Commission finds restrictive practices to exist, the ultimate sanction would be to withdraw the benefit of the Block Exemption Regulation, rendering the offending manufacturer's dealer agreements void and the manufacturer and its dealers would be unable to trade!'
Mazda's corporate and business development manager Trevor Houghton-Berry said that - like other manufacturers and importers - they did recommend resale prices to dealers, but added: 'We strongly refute any suggestion or allegation that these resale prices represent anything other than a recommendation. Our dealers are free to sell Mazda vehicles at any price they see fit and it is for them to determine appropriate levels of discount in the fleet market. As most fleet operators know, front end discount is something of an irrelevance anyway - what really matters are residual values and wholelife costs.'