6 July 2011
The Consumer Agency/Ombudsman and the Finnish Competition Authority point out that consumers are entitled to have the periodic maintenance for their car done wherever they want.
Car maintenance is important, but can be surprisingly expensive. Therefore, when acquiring a new car, the consumer should pay attention to the terms and conditions of the maintenance agreement offered by the warranty or the seller.
The consumers can have the periodic maintenance done in places selected by themselves or at specified locations defined in the maintenance agreement. Before making any buying decision, it pays to find out what the warranty terms and conditions or the maintenance agreement actually cover and whether there are any limitations to them. At the same time, one should find out where the new car can be serviced and what the approximate periodic maintenance costs for the next few years will be.
For example, to limit the warranty so that it will no longer valid if the scheduled maintenance is done anywhere but at an official dealer, is an unreasonable agreement condition under the Consumer Protection Act and may also be contrary to European Union competition rules. The warranty provider may, however, decide on where the repairs covered by the warranty are to be made.
Importers of cars and car manufacturers are not allowed, in their marketing or when concluding a deal, to give the consumer a false impression of the possibility to choose the place for service. In the negotiations of 2005 between the Consumer Agency/Consumer Ombudsman and the automobile industry, model warranty terms for new cars, which reflect the consumer's freedom of choice, were drafted.
The European Commission has employed the so-called Block Exemption Regulation (BER) in their desire to increase competition in the repair industry and motorists' freedom of choice. BER-related supplementary guidelines address, among other things, how the European Union's competition law applies to the agreements concerning vehicles' terms of warranty. It should be noted that the above-described competition rules apply to agreements between traders, and no direct rights for the consumer are implied by them.