EU drops antitrust probe into luxury watch makers

  
Luxury watch, chronograph closeup [Shutterstock]
Luxury watch, chronograph closeup [Shutterstock]

EU antitrust regulators scrapped on Tuesday (29 July) a probe into the refusal by several luxury watch makers to supply spare parts to independent repairers, saying they saw only a limited possibility of finding any wrongdoing.

The three-year investigation by the European Commission was triggered by Europe's second-highest court, which in 2010 said the Commission had been wrong to reject a complaint by the European Confederation of Watch & Clock Repairers' Associations (CEAHR) against the watch makers.

According to the complainant, from 2002, watch manufacturers began to refuse to supply spare parts to repairers that did not belong to their selective systems for repair and maintenance whereas luxury watches had previously traditionally been repaired by independent multi-brand repairers.

CEAHR, whose members include watch and clock repairers in nine EU countries including France, Germany, Italy and Britain, said the luxury watch makers' actions were anti-competitive and could drive independent craftsmen out of business.

"Following a comprehensive investigation, the Commission has concluded that there is limited likelihood of finding such an infringement in the present case. The Commission has accordingly decided to close its antitrust probe," the EU regulator said.

When it first rejected CEHAR's complaint in 2008, the Commission argued the issue presented a "lack of community interest".

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