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Conferences and Training
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"Tackling Problems - Finding Solutions"

The overall theme of the conference which was attended by over seventy delegates was Tackling Problems and Finding Solutions, and the theme for the day was very much underlined by Chrissi Evans, Chair of the SMMT Legal Committee, who outlined the increasing burden of regulation on industry over the last year, and what was expected for 2005. The startling statistic that in 2004, 38 Acts of Parliament, and 3448 statutory instruments were passed – over 50% of them to implement EU legislation - set the tone for much of the rest of the day. Inevitably, the block exemption changes and how these are affecting life for dealers and manufacturers was again a topic for the programme.

Delegates enjoyed an informative presentation from Andrew Tongue of the International Car Development Programme on the work done by ICDP in surveying companies throughout Europe on impact of the block exemption and the likely effect of the removal of the location clause in October this year.

The overall picture was that many manufacturers are setting the bar of standards high, and many dealers are struggling under the weight both of the standards and the investment necessary to achieve them. Whilst everyone is expecting parts manufacturers to benefit, that it not really happening yet, and nobody believes that the EU Commission’s objectives will be fully met.

On the contentious issue of the removal of the location clause in October this year, ICDP has confirmed that there is a divergence of views within the industry, with dealers in particular split over whether the clause will be beneficial or not, and on what will actually happen. Within continental Europe there was fear that the changes will accelerate the drive to fewer, bigger, dealer groups whilst in the UK there was a view that good small and medium sized dealers could use the opportunity to expand. The dealers’ European body CECRA was lobbying for the implementation clause to be delayed, but in ICDP’s view, this was unlikely to be successful.

Looking to the future, the whole issue of the block exemption is still very much in the melting pot, with regulators having the task of monitoring and interpreting the rules at national level, with courts as the ultimate arbiters. Relaxation of the rules in 2010 will depend very much on the industry’s improved behaviour and on the evidence so far this might not be likely, Tongue said.

Turning from the big picture of regulation to the more detailed one, Simon Morris of City law firm CMS Cameron McKenna gave an entertaining presentation on the FSA and a timely update on the range of activities now covered by regulation, and the impact of the ICOB rules on the business. Iain Larkins, Head of Transactions and Legal for the DaimlerChrysler Retail Group followed this by a reminder of the potential impact of the distance selling rules on the retail motor industry, and the changes that the government is proposing to make to the regulations.

Motor Law editor Anthea Worsdall then gave a short update on consumer law developments over the last twelve months, and what might be expected from the new EC Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices.

During the lunch break, delegates had the opportunity to carry on discussions with some of the morning speakers in seven round table debates on a number of related topics including the effect of the removal of the location clause, whether self-regulating codes of practice can ever be effective, and whether the increasing burden of regulation was affecting the industry’s ability to do business. This innovation to the conference format was generally rated as very successful by delegates.

Jeff Sweeting from VOSA was the first of the formal afternoon speakers looking at the broader issue of safety, and took delegates through the new code of practice on vehicle recalls and the impact of the changes to the general product safety regulations.

Adrian Watts of AMR Watts then wound up the day’s proceedings by a look at Company Liabilities and the Director’s Cut – Apocalypse Now? Which took delegates through some of the onerous legal duties now attaching to directors of companies across a range of statutes, including the criminal and civil provisions relating to competition in the Enterprise Act. Personal injury claims cases, and the promise of legislation on corporate manslaughter means that this will be an area of importance to watch as the law continues to develop.

Copies of the conference papers are now available to purchase. Contact us for details.

Conference reports from previous years

2004 2003 2002 2001 2000