The association made the move in consultation with the Office of Fair Trading, which is lending its backing to the scheme through a multi-million pound TV/radio ad campaign due to start in March. This will also include the travel and house-buying sectors as part of the OFT's Approved Codes Programme.
“We recognised that to make the most of the OFT's support we needed to include the whole automotive industry, not just repairers,” says Graham Coleshill, RMI director of legal services who is responsible for overseeing the launch of CarWise.
“We are rolling out the programme now to our members so they are prepared for when the OFT launches its ad campaign in March.”
CarWise incorporates much of the RMI's existing OFT-approved Code of Practice, but with tightened standards and improved arbitration. The association will arrange for businesses to be audited each year via its own assessors and others, possibly including mystery shopping carried out by trading standards.
RMI members will pay £100 on top of their annual subscription fees to join CarWise. Non-members are also encouraged to join but Coleshill expects few to make the £525 investment until the scheme is fully operational. “They will wait until the OFT ads hit the screen or until customers start asking whether they are a CarWise garage,” he adds.
“OFT-approved codes of practice have been around for a while, but have never been properly promoted to the public – now they will.”