BRUSSELS, (Reuters) -- The European Commission is looking into complaints from car dealers that auto manufacturers are breaking EU rules aimed at injecting more competition into the sector, a commission spokesman said on Tuesday.
The spokesman said car makers must allow dealers to carry several brands in their showrooms and sell spare parts made by other firms, or face punishment for clear-cut violations of sales rules.
According to sources familiar with the complaint, dealer groups have accused BMW in Germany and the maker of Citroen cars, France's PSA Peugeot Citroen, for making it difficult for them to sell more than one brand or stock spare parts made by other companies.
"We think this would be a hard-core restriction in violation of the car block exemptions," spokesman Tilman Lueder said.
He confirmed the European Union executive arm had received the complaint, as reported in German newspaper Handelsblatt, and said the allegations were being examined but no conclusions had been reached.
The car companies said they would respond to the complaint and insisted they were following the rules, which will become mandatory on October 1 after a one-year transition period.
"Of course contracts with dealers will perfectly respect the new regulation from October 1," a spokesman for PSA Peugeot Citroen said.
The new European Union rules require car manufacturers not to stand in the way of open competition for spare parts or multi-branding in showrooms.
A BMW spokesman said: "We are aware of the complaint... We have been asked by the EU for a response, and we are currently preparing one."
The new rules reduce the privileges enjoyed by automakers under a long-standing block exemption from normal EU competition law.
"These are key provisions of the new block exemption that enters into force on October 1 and if these two key provisions are not ensured, we will follow up," commission spokesman Lueder said.