On October 27, 2022, the Court delivered its judgment in Case C‑390/21, ADPA and the General Association for the Automotive Parts Trade, on the interpretation of Article 61(1) and Article 63(1) of Regulation (EU) 2018/858 and Article 6(1) and Article 7(1) of Regulation (EC) No 715/2007. The application is made in a procedure between on the one hand ADPA European Independent Automotive Data Publishers (“ADPA”), an international non-profit association incorporated under Belgian law, and Entire Association of Auto Parts Trade eV (“Gesamtverband”), an association under German law, and on the other hand Automobiles PEUGEOT SA (“Peugeot”) and PSA Automobile SA(“PSA”) regarding the fee charged by Peugeot and PSA for access to vehicle repair and maintenance information for the vehicles they manufacture.
Peugeot and PSA hold the type approvals referred to in Article 3(1) of Regulation 2018/858 for Peugeot vehicles and grant access to the information referred to in Annex X of this Regulation relating to repair and maintenance of registered vehicles, through a database based on a Internet portal that independent operators can consult upon payment of an amount common to all such operators, the amount of which varies according to the duration of access granted, with No other individual variables being taken into account.
Since the fees calculated in this way were neither reasonable nor proportionate within the meaning of Article 63(1) of Regulation 2018/858, ADPA and the General Association brought an action before the District Court of Cologne (Regional Court of Cologne; the ‘referring court’), which required Peugeot and PSA to charge publishers of technical information the same fees as independent repairers. Given the need to interpret the relevant European legislation, the referring court has therefore decided to stay the proceedings and to refer four questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.
By its first question, the referring court asked whether Articles 61 and 63 of Regulation 2018/858 should be interpreted as applying to vehicle models approved under Regulation No 715/2007.
According to the Court, Article 86(2) of Regulation 2018/858 provides that references to the deleted provisions of Regulation 715/2007 shall be construed as references to Regulation 2018/858 and therefore replace Articles 61 and 63 thereof, Article 6 and 7 of Regulation No. 715/2007 and apply from September 1st, 2020 to vehicles approved before that date.
With its second question, the referring court wanted to know whether Article 61(1) of Regulation 2018/858 is to be interpreted as meaning that the obligation imposed therein on car manufacturers to have unrestricted, standardized and non-discriminatory access to “vehicle repair and maintenance information” within the meaning of of Art. 3 No. 48 of this regulation includes the obligation to allow the publishers of technical information to process and use this information for the purposes of their activities in the aftermarket supply chain, without subjecting them to conditions other than those set out below in this regulation.
According to the Court of Justice, the right of access to the information necessary for vehicle repair and maintenance, which car manufacturers must exercise under Article 61(1) of Regulation 2018/858 u such information in the context and for the purposes of their own commercial activity without other than the process and use the conditions set out in this regulation. By facilitating access to this information by independent operators who are not authorized dealers or repairers that are part of the manufacturers’ distribution system, the publishers of technical information actually contribute to the development of the market by such operators.
Finally, by its third and fourth questions, the referring court wanted to know whether Article 63 of Regulation 2018/858 is to be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘reasonable and proportionate fees’ contained in that article obliges car manufacturers to apply a uniform fee to all independent traders Method of calculating those charges solely on the basis of the costs incurred by the access to vehicle repair and maintenance information that they are required to provide under this Regulation.
According to the Court of Justice, the obligations imposed by Regulation 2018/858 on car manufacturers differ according to the status of their beneficiary, which precludes the application of a single lump sum for all independent contractors in relation to the fees charged for access to repair and maintenance information for vehicles and implies that car manufacturers must, inter alia, take into account how this information is used by the various independent market participants in the course of their commercial activities.