IAF Progress Report

Our Industry is faced with anti-competitive practices, and it is very difficult to be entirely open about the actions we are taking to combat these, without potentially handing an advantage to those who are intent on enforcing them by whatever means at their disposal. For this reason, you will have to forgive us for leaving out some of the details, but we have been working hard over the last few months, and are now in a position to report back.

From the Guild's perspective, the best solution would be for the Swiss to come to the realisation for themselves that they have made a monumentally bad business decision in refusing to openly supply spare parts, and of their own volition reverse this policy before they do any more damage to their Brands. The issue is, therefore, how to demonstrate to them what this damage is.

A couple of months ago, at the request of the IAF, Christian Dannemann wrote a very telling piece on his internet blog ( http://watchguy.co.uk/swatch-group-parts-policy/ ), in which he suggested consumers should avoid buying Swatch Group watches in future, and invited his readers to write directly to Swatch telling them so. The response of his readers was immediate, and the effect was very interesting. Within a few days, Christian was contacted by Swatch, and invited to Switzerland to "discuss" matters. A couple of weeks later, Christian was on a plane to Bienne, and whilst nothing new came from the discussions, at least a line of communications was opened.

When he came back, Christian decided to set up a Customer survey to get the views of enthusiasts and collectors (http://watchguy.co.uk/watchguy-survey-swiss-watch-industry/ ), with the intention of sending the results to the Swiss in order to reinforce just how much they are damaging themselves. The results made for very interesting reading (http://watchguy.co.uk/swiss-watch-customer-survey-the-results/ ) with the Independent Service Sector consistently outperforming the Manufacturers, and with over 98% of respondents wanting open supply of spare parts. Christian has duly forwarded the results to the Swiss Federation, and is waiting for their response. The survey was also reported in the trade press (http://www.watchpro.com/18458-watch-guy-seeks-answers-to-spare-parts-stoppage/ ), which will not have gone unnoticed. But what can we do if the Swiss are foolish enough to ignore the requirements of their customers? Like all situations where a change of approach is required of someone, there are two choices. Either they change their approach for themselves, or they are made to change.

A fight is best avoided, but sometimes avoidance isn't possible, and it is always best to be prepared. The Guild believes that by refusing open supply of spares, the Swiss companies are in breach of a range of Laws and trade agreements. The IAF team have been looking closely at the options available, and the processes needed to have the Law enforced. Once again, it would be indiscrete to be public with too much detail, but we are pleased to release the following announcement:-

"A delegation from the Industry Action Fund (IAF) of the British Watch and Clock Makers' Guild, met at the beginning of November with Senior Officials from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to discuss the Anti-Competitive practices being imposed by the Swiss Watch Industry, and how these are impacting both the Consumer, and the Independent Repair Trade.

Before the meeting, IAF Project Manager, Steve Domb, had provided BIS with a briefing paper on the background to the situation, and the issues that urgently need addressing. This was supported at the meeting with a more comprehensive information pack.

Steve reports: "When we arrived for the meeting, it was clear that the officials had studied the briefing and were well prepared. We knew within the first minute of the meeting starting that we had a sympathetic and knowledgeable audience, because one of our hosts opened proceedings by removing from his wrist a vintage Swiss watch. He then told us about his recent experience of getting an exorbitant quote for service from the manufacturer, and subsequently having the work done at an Independent Watchmaker for about one eighth of the price."

The meeting worked methodically through all the issues relating to parts supply, barriers to entry created by the manufacturers requirements for specific tooling for each brand, and by product specific training requirements. The IAF highlighted the impact on consumers, and presented the results of Christian Dannemann's recent survey. The IAF team also went to great lengths to highlight the true size of the market for watches in the UK (over £1 billion annually), the current actions in the EU Court, and the worldwide nature of the parts embargo being imposed.

The team from BIS provided the IAF with very helpful advice on the next steps needed, and have put us in contact with the Competitions and Markets Authority so that we can discuss the matter with them. The IAF will report again on progress in due course."

There are those amongst us who have little faith in Politicians, or that anyone who has the power to enforce the Law has any interest in doing so on our behalf. However, if you want Laws enacted to support the consumer, and existing Laws enforced to ensure our trade can best serve their customers, then these are the people and organisations you must engage with. The fact of the matter is that Politicians can only provide support to a cause when they have the issues efficiently laid out before them, and a timely opportunity to raise them. The enforcers of the Law have carefully established processes which the aggrieved must follow if the Law is to be applied.

There is evidence to be gathered, documentation to be prepared, and meetings to be held. Please believe that we are working hard on all of these. Keep supporting the IAF, and encourage others to do so. Please also make an effort to work with everyone else in the Industry to present a united front.

I will report again soon.

Steve Domb
 

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Industry Action Fund - Terms and Conditions

1 The Purpose of the Industry Action Fund

The Industry Action Fund (the Fund) has been established to allow individuals and organisations to combine resources in order to facilitate projects of common interest for the benefit of the UK Horological Industry.

2 Ownership and Management of the Fund

The Fund is the property of the Contributors. It is managed on their behalf by The British Watch and Clock Makers’ Guild (the Guild). All monies will be kept in a dedicated Bank Account, and will be separate from other Guild funds. The monies will only be used for activities relating to the purpose of the Fund and not for any other activities undertaken by the Guild. The Guild undertakes to maintain proper records of income and expenditure for the Fund, and to report on this to the Contributors from time to time. The Guild will use its judgement to decide how best to use the Fund to achieve the stated purpose.

3 Contributions to the Fund

a) Funding will be collected in Phases to meet the costs of the projects described. You are contributing to Phase 1. It is the intention that the fund remain as an on-going vehicle for collaborative projects, and that further phases of fund raising will take place as and when required.
b) Your proportion of ownership of the fund will be the same as the proportion of your contribution to the total amount collected in Phase 1. Once the monies collected in Phase 1 have been consumed you will cease to own any proportion of the Fund, unless you have contributed to a subsequent Phase (if undertaken).
c) Once given, you may not withdraw your contribution to the Fund.
d) In the event that there are surplus monies remaining in the Fund at the end of the activities required for Phase 1, it will be treated in one of three ways:-
     i) If there is a further phase of activity taking place, the monies will be rolled into that section of the Fund.
     ii) If there are no further phases of activity taking place and none intended, and there are substantial monies remaining, they will be returned to the
     Contributors in proportion to their original contribution, and the Fund will be closed.
     iii) If there are no further phases of activity taking place and none intended, and only a small amount of money remaining that would not justify the
     administrative cost of returning it, the remaining monies will be donated to a suitable charity, and the Fund will be closed.

4 Outputs from the work of the Fund

Any outputs from the work of the Fund (e.g. Data sets, Reports, Analyses etc.) will become the property of the Guild to be used for the benefit of the Industry. From time to time, Contributors will be provided with updates on the work of the fund, and with copies or summaries of any reports as applicable.

5 Data Protection

All contributions to the fund will be treated in Confidence unless the Contributor has given specific permission for their name to be made public. All data collected will be handled and managed according to the relevant principles of the Data Protection Act.

6 Amendments

The Guild reserves the right to amend these Terms and Conditions as may be required for the proper and safe management of the Fund.

7 Governing Law

The fund will be governed by the Law of England and Wales.

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That Letter from ETA

Reproduced below is the standard letter that ETA sent out last year worldwide to Independent Watchmakers and Parts Suppliers announcing the cessation of supply of spares and movements from the end of 2015. Many of these organisations had business relationships with ETA going back many decades. They were more than a little offended by the impersonal way the letter was addressed.

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An Open Letter from Anthony Cousins

The following letter was sent by Anthony Cousins to all Cousins UK customers, and repeated in their June 2015 Newsletter. The Industry Action Fund would be grateful for any similar initiative from any supporter with a suitable circulation list

We all must Contribute to the Future of the Industry

The British Watch and Clock Makers Guild has set up an Industry Action Fund, and I am asking all of Cousins customers to contribute whatever they can to it.

The fund is to initially be used to pay for a data gathering and research project on the current size of the UK industry, and its views and requirements on critical issues such as the forthcoming ETA Parts Embargo, along with Training and Apprenticeships. Once the research is complete, the fund will then be used to approach relevant bodies to obtain Government support for our industry's needs.

The recent Guild Conference demonstrated a strong desire to grow the UK industry, and a willingness to work together in a manner that has not been seen for many years. However it also revealed how the lack of basic data is preventing us from putting a credible case before the relevant bodies for the support we need in developing the next generation of Watch and Clock Makers, and from effectively tackling the anti-competitive practices that the Swiss are now imposing. The Conference was an event for talk, and it was a valuable first stepping stone in developing proper cross industry communication, but if it is not followed up with some serious action, then it will have been for nothing.

Gathering that information is the vital first step, but equally important is the ability to demonstrate that those of us who work in the industry believe in a vibrant future. That is why it is so important for all of us to contribute something. If you are a self-employed outworker, I am sure you could afford to contribute £50, and if you are a large Corporate it should be many times more than that.

We must all remember that it is the end consumer who ultimately pays our wages, and they are already suffering. The practices being imposed by the Swiss on the watch servicing market are drastically reducing customer choice, and pushing up prices to artificially high levels. The shortage of trained staff is resulting in unacceptably long repair times, with the resulting frustration that this delivers.

It is the people who work in the Industry that are the Industry, and if we individually take the attitude that contributing to the future is someone else's responsibility, then there is no future to be had. If it isn't our collective responsibility to tackle these issues, then whose is it?

We all take great pride in delivering high quality service and value for money to our customers, but are we really doing the best for them if, by our collective inactivity, we fail to counter the threats that we face, or ensure that there is a new generation of trained professionals to carry on our craft?

Please take two minutes out of your day to send an email to iaf@bwcmg.org enclosing your contact details and how much you would like to donate, and the Guild will respond with how to pay in and obtain a receipt.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Kind Regards

Anthony Cousins

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Comments from contributors

When sending in their pledges, many Contributors take the opportunity to add somecomments and opinions. Hear are a few that we could reproduce....

"I am horrified and disgusted at the Swiss attitude, which will ultimately affect myself and fellow BHI Associates. All that is going to happen (I think), is that the Swiss are shooting themselves in the foot, and opening the door for the Chinese to ramp up their supply of generic parts, as they do reasonably successfully at the moment."

"I would be happy to donate £50 towards the battle, and it would be nice if our P.M. would take this problem on board in his discussions with the EU."

"I am in complete agreement with the principles of the fund and am happy to pledge £100 towards the fund. I know this is only a small contribution, but if I exceed my targeted profit in the next 6 months I will be happy to increase this further."

"I hope full support from all members will prevail to keep this industry as it should be....the friendly, yet qualified "clock man down the road"."

"Reading through your open letter we agree wholeheartedly with your views and would like to donate £50 to the very worthy cause."

"This is a fantastic initiative, well done. I would be delighted to pay £100 towards the cause."

"The more this restrictive practice goes unchallenged the more outrageously the Swiss will behave, and it simply sets a precedent for others even the cheaper brands."

"I am very interested in supporting the Guild and professional bodies engaged in the very important business of protecting the heritage of our fine profession; particularly from the restrictive and protectionist practices."

"Please advise if I can provide any other assistance - I fear greatly for the future of the independent watchmaker if nothing changes."

"My Cheque for £50.00 will be posted Thursday morning. Well done to the BWCMG for its initiative."

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