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Rip-off workshops under pressure

04 April 2005

The car servicing and repair industry is under pressure from the National Consumer Council (NCC) to get its house in order and give motorists a better deal.

What Car? uncovered shocking standards at workshops

The car servicing and repair industry is under pressure from the National Consumer Council (NCC) to get its house in order and give motorists a better deal.

Mystery shopping exercises, such as What Car?’s own investigation (What Car?, November 2004), have shown the £10 billion-a-year workshop industry rips motorists off with substandard or unnecessary work and poor service.

Despite these findings and other damning results in DTI investigations, the NCC said the industry has done little to change and is guilty of ‘inaction’ and ‘lack of engagement’. It said it is now considering using recently granted powers to make a ‘super complaint’ to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Chairman of the NCC Deirdre Hutton said: ‘We are throwing down the gauntlet to the industry. Years of inaction defy the harm this sector inflicts on consumers. Unless it rises to our challenge and gets serious about addressing the problems consumers suffer, a super complaint might be the only way forward.’

The OFT would investigate the industry following the complaint. If it found evidence that consumers are not getting a fair deal, it could refer the matter to the Competition Commission for action to be taken.

The Retail Motor Industry (RMI) federation, which represents the service and repair industry, had attempted to get a new voluntary code of conduct called CarWise approved by the OFT. It abandoned its efforts last year, however, blaming the OFT for the collapse of the code. The OFT said it simply was not good enough.

The RMI insisted it is continuing to work on improving standards despite the failure of CarWise. It said new proposals for rebuilding consumers’ confidence in the industry will be presented in the next few months.

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