Concerns about vehicle sales were the most common reason for people to get in touch, with almost two-thirds (63%) of the calls and emails relating to cars that weren’t of an appropriate standard at the point of sale. The other most common areas of concern were vehicle warranties and the standard of repair work.
Work carried out by a garage that wasn’t agreed beforehand was the subject of just over half (52%) of disputes, and issues with car owners being charged for diagnostic or other exploratory work accounted for 20% of contacts.
Although the volume of calls has gone up, the number of cases referred through to its motoring ombudsman team for formal dispute resolution has remained at an average of 5%. All the other disputes are resolved informally.
The Motor Ombudsman service changed its name from Motor Codes in 2016 and it credits this for some of the increase in contacts. “Consumers didn’t know what we were about, and didn’t understand we were there to help them,” explained Bill Fennell, chief ombudsman and managing director of the Motor Ombudsman.
The increase isn’t viewed as a bad thing or an indicator of a rise in problems with car sales or servicing, as Holly McAllister, head of customer service and quality at the Motor Ombudsman, explains: “Ever-increasing awareness among consumers and automotive businesses has resulted in a significant uplift in contacts. Case volumes remain low, demonstrating the efforts all parties make to resolve disagreements.”
As well as offering information to consumers via its panel of legally trained advisers, the Motor Ombudsman gives impartial advice to those in the motoring industry. It has 7500 member businesses, which have signed up to one of its codes of conduct.
“Our biggest aim is to improve standards at garages and car dealerships and that will mean consumers have fewer problems, which will drive confidence in the industry,” adds Fennell.