Under the current system, ministers are only able to set a recommended price for the fee. But that leaves the scheme open to abuse from rogue repairers offering knock down rates. With more than 25m tests taking place every year, the MoT is worth more than £1bn. But some repairers are offering up to 50 per cent off the price.
Experts say the industry is losing more than £4m a year because many of the 19,000 vehicle test stations are charging drivers £20 a test rather than the preferred £40 fee.
Now a group of leading repairers is calling on ministers to change the way the system works and impose a mandatory charge before 2005.
The working group is called the MoT Forum and claims to represent more than 90 per cent of MoT test stations that are members of a trade body. It warns that failure to impose a set fee will result in an industry- wide skills shortage and a lack of faith in the test among consumers.
Hugh Roberts, managing director of the MoT Club, says: “Cut price tests devalue the MoT in the eyes of the consumer and reduce the amount of money being reinvested in the scheme, which makes it difficult to retain testers. The Government should do more to enhance the test in the eyes of the consumer – it is not just a means of getting a tax disc but a vital check on vehicle safety.”
Ron Bowie, operations director for Motest, underlined this point, saying: “The test should not be a marketing tool, it is a vital part of road safety,” he says. “Putting an end to discounting would allow us to solve the skills shortage that is effecting the industry and invest money in people.”
The MVRA's MoT division disagrees saying a mandatory fee would force many independents out of business. But a spokeswoman for the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency says the current system encourages open competition and gives consumers greater choice.