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Warranty Direct accuses franchised dealers of restrictive practices in imports warranty repairs

Franchised dealers refusing to carry out repairs on new cars covered by independent warranties could leave thousands of motorists 'high and dry', says Warranty Direct.

The firm has raises its concerns as the OFT reaches the closing stages of its six month long investigation into the provisions of new car warranties.

Presently, new car buyers in the UK receive a three-year manufacturer backed warranty as standard. However, vehicles imported from the EU arrive with between 12-24 months cover, leaving the consumer the option of buying an independently sourced 'top-up' from the retailer or companies like Warranty Direct.

During the height of the 'Rip Off Britain' campaign, more than 100,000 vehicles were being imported annually from the Continent. Warranty Direct says evidence suggests that some franchised dealers are unwilling to recognise the non-manufacturer approved warranties often bought with these cars.

"Although consumers can get the repairs done anywhere, the market is structured in such a way that future residuals will be hit if the work is not kept within the network - hence the reason why many make the local dealer their first port of call," explains Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct. "However, there is no reason why this stigma should apply to repair work."

One customer was forced to cancel his Warranty Direct policy on an imported Audi TT after his local franchised dealer refused to recognise the warranty. The same dealer had only reluctantly agreed to undertake the first year EU warranty work as a goodwill gesture.

McClure Fisher adds: "Unable to find a willing Audi dealer in his area, and worried that he needed to protect the re-sale value of the car, the customer was forced into spending £525 on a one-year, manufacturer-approved warranty from the dealer. That was £50 more than the two-year cover he originally had in place from us."

McClure Fisher described the incident as "unscrupulous and uncompetitive behaviour. A shocking indictment of the restrictive practices dogging the industry."

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