OEMs Agree to Mention Oil Specs

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The German subsidiaries of Seat and Skoda have added engine oil specifications to owners manuals of their vehicles, as part of a cease and desist settlement with a consumer protection organization that accused them of violating competition rules, according to Uniti, the Federal Association of Medium-sized Mineral Oil Companies.

Uniti announced yesterday that the automakers agreed to take the action in response to a complaint by the non-profit Competition Center. German law requires engine oil specifications to be listed in owners manuals to help ensure brand choice for motorists and fair competition for independent, medium-sized lubricant suppliers.

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In its news release, Uniti it recently received a spate of complaints from Uniti members and consumers that operating instructions for Škoda and Seat vehicles lacked information on oil specifications recommended for use in their vehicles. Instead, the manuals instructed owners to have the oil changed by a “specialist company” or to obtain information from such a business.

The association said that in the absence of available approved engine oil specifications, a motorist cannot spontaneously decide which brand of oil they can use for their vehicle. “This deprives motorists of their freedom of choice when it comes to oil, and at the same time, the ability of independent medium-sized lubricant suppliers to participate in fair competition is restricted,” Uniti Managing Director for Lubricants and Mineral Oil Technology Edwin Leber said in the news release.

Uniti said that after a preliminary check it turned to the Competition Center, which, as an independent institution of the German economy, promotes the responsibility of companies to engage in fair competition. According to Uniti, the center warned both vehicle manufacturers that they were violating laws against unfair competition. Škoda Auto Germany and Seat Germany have both recognized the violations and submitted the required declarations of cease and desist to the Competition Center, the association stated.

“We expect the processes to have a certain impact on other [original equipment manufacturers] who are pursuing comparable tendencies,” in not providing consumers with the required information on approved engine oil specifications in their car operating instructions that are intended to provide for neutral engine oil selection and fair competition, Uniti Managing Director for Petrol Stations Jörg-Uwe Brandis said in the news release.

Uniti noted that vehicle manufacturers are permitted in operating manuals to make non-binding recommendations for specific oil brands, but the organization said motorist freedom of choice is still fundamentally guaranteed by the mandate to mention the specification of oil approved for the vehicle.