NTDA shares its view on tyre labelling consultation

Following the news that the government is consulting the market on the full implementation and enforcement of tyre labelling legislation in the UK, the NTDA has shared its views on both the process and its response to the consultation.

According to the NTDA, the government consultation proposal can be summarised like this: “The department has appointed a tyre enforcement authority (the National Measurement Office) which will be responsible for organising a risk-based market surveillance approach and for the application of appropriate enforcement measures that impose the minimum burdens necessary to meet our EU obligations.

“This will be through the use of criminal offences that can be enacted using the primary legislation powers under which the new tyre Regulations will be drafted (Consumer Protection Act 1987). Where necessary section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 will be used to create enforcement provisions in respect of the obligations created by European Regulations and those enforcement provisions will effectively adopt the 1987 Act enforcement regime. This is consistent with the current sanctions that are in place for contravention with regulatory requirements on tyres.

“This approach maintains a similar methodology to the existing regime by promoting a risk-based approach to market surveillance and enforcement. It is intended, through the use of methods such as education, warning letters and cautions, to create behavioural change and promote compliance, giving regulated entities opportunities to comply before prosecution. It is noted that regulatory requirements for tyre labelling are new and the focus of the Enforcement Authority will be on educating retailers as to their obligations in the first instance, and only pursuing prosecutions against persistent non-conforming suppliers.”

At the time of the consultation’s launch, earlier this week, NTDA encourage all sections of the trade to engage with government in order to ensure their views are heard. And with this in mind, here are the specific questions the consultation is asking: “Do you consider that the proposed approach to enforcement is an appropriate and proportionate way of enforcing the regulations? If not please explain how you think it could be improved.”

NTDA responsd to key tyre labelling enforcement consultation question:

“The National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) considers, in principle, the proposed approach to enforcement to be appropriate to the specific requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1222/2009, providing that persistent non-conforming suppliers are indeed held accountable and, where necessary, prosecuted as proposed. Indeed, we would like to see more prosecutions of persistent non-conforming suppliers across a number of areas such as illegal part worn tyre sales and illegal tyre recovery companies operating from ‘exemption’ sites.

“NTDA members have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in ensuring they are in a position to educate consumers regarding EC Regulation 1222/2009 and there are many examples of best practice. The recent research conducted by the NMO showed, that our members are very aware and knowledgeable regarding tyre labelling, when asked directly by the NMO appointed researchers.

“Where they did fall short of NMO expectations was under ‘mystery shopper’ parameters. The NTDA believes that this is totally understandable as the vast majority of consumers see tyres as a grudge purchase and are generally only interested in the price. It is, therefore, very difficult for our members, under such circumstances, to convince their customers to scrutinise the label information and make an informed purchase based on that information.

“That is not to say that our members do not endeavour to do so, as we have evidence that they do and that many members see labelling as an opportunity to promote better performing or premium brands.

“NTDA members, by their very nature, are suppliers who are committed to raising standards in the tyre industry and who are committed to improving the level of service they offer to consumers.

“It would be a travesty, in our opinion, if such well-intended companies, many of whom are voluntarily involved (and have financially invested in), initiatives such as the REACT Licence to Fit scheme, the Part-Worn campaign and the TyreBack used tyre responsible recovery scheme, were prosecuted for non-compliance because they didn’t advise a customer of the ‘benefits’ of tyre labelling when 500 yards down the road another less scrupulous retailer is selling illegal part worn tyres ‘under the arches’ and is not even being inspected.

“The approach proposed would, in the first instance, appear to address the NTDA’s concerns regarding the above.”

So, while the association conceded that some retailers have fallen short of NMO expectations in mystery shopper tests, it also pointed out that the industry has put a lot into making tyre information available to the public. Therefore their argument is two-fold: One, enforcement should be enacted along the lines of the soft-touch, encourage-the-market-to-comply lines suggested by the NMO (as opposed to the “big stick” and conviction led deterrent method at the other end of the spectrum). And two, we all have to be pragmatic about the overall interest of consumers in tyre labelling and the relative consumer apathy encountered in less sophisticated examples of this approach (such as white goods).

There are few who would disagree with the first line of reasoning, especially from within the tyre business itself. However, while the trade and industry may also be sympathetic to the second argument as well, it is remains to seen whether or not the UK and European government will be so accommodating about this part. After all – as the consultation document explicitly explains – the policy objective of the tyre labelling laws is to encourage “the purchase of fuel efficient and safe tyres” and this “relies on the provision of consistent, comparable, information to consumers.” If the market can offer this by means other than the labelling system this argument will win out. Otherwise the pragmatic perspective appears to be a sturdier position from which to communicate the trade’s perspective.

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