French watchdog calls for car repairs deregulation

PARIS, Oct 8 (Reuters) - France's competition watchdog onMonday called for a deregulation of the car maintenance marketto put the brakes on the rising cost of vehicle repairs.

The deregulation would give French repair shops the freedomto buy spare parts such as bumpers, windscreens, lights andrear-view mirrors from suppliers other than their originalmanufacturers.

"Car makers have an actual monopoly on more than 70 percentof these parts, and enjoy a duopoly with part manufacturers onthe remaining 30 percent," France's Autorite de la Concurrencesaid in a statement.

As a result, while the number of repairs in France declined15 percent between 2000 and 2010, the price of car maintenance,excluding inflation, has ballooned by almost 30 percent, theregulator said.

The market for parts used to assemble vehicles, however,would not be affected by the plan.

The regulator said it would allow a gradual lifting of carmakers' monopoly on spare parts to take into account the slumpin car sales in austerity-hit Europe.

The French auto makers' association warned the decisionwould hit up to 2,200 jobs and lead to reduced choice forconsumers as distributors would focus on more profitable parts.

French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir said it was satisfiedwith the report.

The French government will now decide whether to implementthe regulator's recommendations.

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by Elena Berton;Editing by Mark Potter)


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