What Car? is keeping a close eye on the UK's servicing and repair industry.
Read through our Q&A to find out why the servicing standards issue is so important, how it could be putting you at risk and how it is costing British motorists £4-billion a year in poor service.
Q: Why should I care?
A: Workshops consistently do extremely badly in reports from a wide variety of groups including the Department for Trade and Industry, the Trading Standards Institute and What Car?'s own mystery shops.
The quality of work is below par, sometimes dangerously so, while garages also perform unnecessary work or charge for work that hasn't been done.
Q: Is it a big problem?
A: UK motorists spend £10 billion a year on servicing and repair at the UK's 25,000 garages every year. The Trading Standards Institute says the unacceptably poor service from garages costs motorists £4 billion a year. Yes, it's a big problem.
Q: How long has it been a problem?
A: Decades. The British Standards Institute counts 11 failed attempts by the industry to improve service over the last 30 years.
Q: So what's happened in recent years?
A: After appalling results in a 2002 Department for Trade and Industry mystery shop, the Government threatened to formally licence the industry if it couldn't pull its socks up.
The Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents around 9000 of the UK's garages, swiftly responded by drawing up the Carwise code of conduct to address the proble and promised tough self-regulation.
After two years of work the RMIF gave up on the Office of Fair Trading approval process for the code and it was dropped.
Q: So formal licensing it is then?
A: Not yet. The DTI still prefers the self-regulation option despite the threats it made in 2002 and the string of aborted attempts by the industry to turn a new leaf.
The National Consumer Council has now given the industry until September 2007 to turn itself around, and hopes that a British Standards Institute Kitemark scheme launched in September 2005 will pave the way for better standards.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has also put forward another code of conduct that has the support of the RMIF.
If the NCC isn't satisfied in 2007 it can launch a super complaint against the industry and put serious pressure on the DTI to introduce licensing.
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