New car prices still vary significantly between the 15 European Union countries, the European Commission said today, with continuing evidence that manufacturers were engaging in restrictive practices to prevent citizens buying vehicles more cheaply in another Member State.

EU competition commissioner Mario Monti warned car companies that their behaviour "will be fully taken into account" when the Commission considered the future of the block exemption regulation, which permits exclusive dealerships, later this year.

The latest Brussels survey shows that prices in Britain "are still much higher" than in other countries, with Greece, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark the cheapest.

The latter tend to be high tax countries where car manufacturers post low pre-tax prices to ensure that vehicles remain affordable to most people.

Prices in the UK are nearly one third higher than in the lowest markets for cheaper and medium-priced vehicles like the Renault Clio and VW Golf.

For more expensive cars like the BMW 318i, the difference is about 14%.

The Commission said it was still receiving complaints from British consumers over high right-hand drive supplements and long delivery times for cars bought abroad.

The supplement for right-hand drive specification was generally lowest for Japanese cars and highest for those made by the VW group.

- Alan Osborn

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