The Advocate General at the European Court of Justice follows GVA e.V. – a client of the international legal practice Osborne Clarke – in an important test case. 

In a test case of the Gesamtverband Autoteile-Handel e.V. (GVA) against the vehicle manufacturer Scania, the Regional Court of Cologne has referred several questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) (Case C-319/22). 

One of these questions concerns the refusal of vehicle manufacturers to provide independent operators (parts manufacturers, parts dealers and providers of technical information) with the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) for their vehicles so that they can, for example, allocate their alternative spare parts to individual vehicles. According to many vehicle manufacturers, they can refuse to disclose the VIN on data protection grounds. 

The Advocate General at the European Court of Justice takes a different view and follows the plaintiff represented by Osborne Clarke. Firstly, he states unequivocally that vehicle manufacturers are obliged to disclose the VIN under Regulation (EU) 2018/858. Secondly, he emphasizes that this obligation is at the same time a legal basis for data processing under Art. 6(1)(c) General Data Protection Regulation, so that the disclosure of the VIN is also permissible under data protection law. 

Three questions have been submitted to the ECJ in these proceedings. As the Advocate General was asked by the ECJ to deal only with the question on data protection, the ECJ will likely follow the Advocate General’s legal opinion. This would also establish that vehicle manufacturers were already obliged in the past to make their VINs available to the players in the markets for service work, spare parts and technical information in order to foster competition there. An important interim success for the independent aftermarket would be achieved. At the same time, manufacturers would have to fear being confronted with claims for damages due to their refusal in the past.
The Osborne Clarke team that advised GVA consists of Marcus Sacré, Elisabeth Macher, Paul Schmitz (all IP law) and Dr Marc Störing (data protection).

Corporate communications and press contacts

If you are a journalist and would like comment or background from our legal experts, we can help. Our team will put you in touch with the best person. View a full list of our international press contacts by jurisdiction here.