Competition: Commission Ends Triumph’s Motorcycle Export Ban

Competition: Commission Ends Triumph’s Motorcycle Export Ban

Following a number of letters from British customers claiming that they were not able to purchase Triumph’s motorcycles in the Netherlands and Belgium, the Commission started an inquiry on its own initiative to investigate the existence of the alleged export prohibition. Commission competition officials raided the premises of Triumph in the UK, its Benelux importer Greenib and a number of dealers in the Netherlands and Belgium in April 1999 and apparently found evidence of export restrictions. Three months after the inspections, Triumph admitted having imposed an export prohibition via Greenib on its Benelux dealers from April/May 1997 to March 1998 to prevent its dealers from selling to UK customers and offered to co-operate with the Commission.According to Triumph, the action to reduce parallel trade was a result of the currency fluctuations between the Pound Sterling and other currencies. Price differences between the UK and Belgium and the Netherlands reached 30% for certain models at the time. Triumph sells its motorcycles in all EU countries, but its overall market share is less than 5%. Market shares in individual Member States are also below 5%, except in the UK, where it is currently around 10%.An export prohibition constitutes one of the most severe restriction of competition contrary to Article 81 of the Treaty. However, given the short period of time during which the ban was applied, the limited impact that it was able to produce on the market, and given that Triumph has not only acknowledged the facts, but also taken appropriate measures to cease the export ban, and has implemented all the requested measures asked for by the Commission to inform dealers of their obligations, the Commission decided not to pursue the case any further.The EU executive is thus hoping to send a clear message to the motorcycle industry that it will act against similar infringements should they occur and sanction manufacturers where appropriate. Motorcycle distribution is not covered by the block exemption granted by Regulation 1475/95 which concerns only the selective and exclusive distribution system for cars, trucks and busses – due to be reviewed in September 2002.

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