European Union (EU) competition commissioner Neelie Kroes has laid down policy for the review of the auto sector block exemption from standard European competition rules. Importantly, she has given a “cast-iron guarantee” that a new system would guarantee the rights of independent repairers “access to technical information and alternative brands of spare parts.”

This, she told a meeting of auto executives in Brussels, would “continue to be necessary preconditions for such workshops to repair these older vehicles…”

She declared bluntly: “I will not agree to any change to the rules that will make life harder for independent repairers.”

However, there is a question mark over whether Kroes will decide the new block exemption regime, which replaces the current system from May 2010.

The existing European Commission leaves office in November (possibly their mandate will be extended to January until the EU’s Lisbon treaty’s planned ratification) and it is highly unlikely Kroes would remain competition commissioner.

However, Brussels observers told that her views reflected those of her directorate-general’s advisors, so a new commissioner may continue this line.

Kroes added the environmental benefits of encouraging older cars to operate (this generates half the carbon emissions of manufacturing a new vehicle) would be considered in the review, underlining her tough line.

Amongst the auto industry executives attending the roundtable were Patrick Blain, Renault executive vice president sales and marketing; David Kirke, GM executive director European sales operations; and Annette Winkler, vice president Europe, Daimler.

Keith Nuthall