Fleet News

Inquiry told public is being 'ripped off' by dealers and manufacturers

A TOP level probe into price fixing claims by manufacturers subjected leading industry figures to a three-hour grilling to determine why British cars seem to cost more than in Europe. MPs pressed dealers and manufacturers to explain how the situation had arisen, claiming that the buying public was being 'ripped off.'

The Consumers Association said the answer was down to price fixing by manufacturers, using power given by the Block Exemption to keep dealers in line. The European Block Exemption agreement allows manufacturers to limit distribution of their products exclusively to dealerships, and manufacturers were accused of using their power to force dealerships into refusing discounts.

The Department of Trade and Industry select committee investigating panel also claimed that misleading and inaccurate information was being sent out about grey imports to damage the growing market. The Consumers Association provided interviews showing dealerships blocked customers' attempts to buy cars from abroad by not offering help or saying it was impossible.

Phil Evans, senior policy adviser for the Consumers Association, told MPs at the select committee: 'We have seen changes in safety, such as Euro NCAP. We have seen a great deal of progress, but not on car pricing in the UK. The whole structure of the market is rigged against consumers trying to get a good deal. There is an attempt to stop the market operating properly.'

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