I recently wrote a blog article on the misuse of CMMs to gain anti-competitive advantages in the parts aftermarket through tying arrangements.
In response to that article, we have been hearing a lot from people about restrictive ICA/CMM licensing agreements. These agreements condition access to the ICA or CMM on a licensing agreement that restricts the repair station or air carrier from using PMA parts. In some cases the restriction may be explicit, but in other cases it may be more subtle (like an agreement that forbids use of the OEM ICA for inspecting the PMA part, despite the fact that the FAA has already approved the PMA part with ICA provisions that require continued reliance on the OEM manual).
In essence, the repair station’s or air carrier’s access to necessary manuals is held hostage to an anticompetitive agreement that adversely affects their ability to purchase competitive products, and that undermines safety by preventing the use of maintenance manuals in contexts that have already been deemed appropriate by the FAA (and where there is no other FAA-acceptable alternative).
We have been shocked, already, at the number of examples of this sort of anti-competitive behavior that we’ve discovered.
We frequently speak with the media about PMA issues, and this is an issue that is attracting a great deal of media attention. I gave an interview to AIN and they published an article based on our work in this area.
This is an important issue for the entire industry. Repair stations and air carriers are being asked to sign ICA/CMM licenses that restrict their ability to purchase independent (competitive) PMAs. And they being coerced into doing so by the threat of losing access to the ICAs and CMMs.
An important point here is that agreements that tie a monopolized product (like a OEM CMM, which repair stations MUST have under 14 C.F.R. 145.109) to a competitive product (the OEM parts, which are in competition with PMA parts) may be violations of the U.S. antitrust laws (and may violate the latest European antitrust laws). Where an OEM requires the purchase of OEM parts as a condition of access to ICAs/CMMs, there are serious potential antitrust consequences.
We have already gotten copies of several examples of restrictive language that forbids or limits use of PMAs as a condition of obtaining the manuals. I would appreciate it if the reading audience could help me by sending me copies of any examples you might find of such restrictive language.