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VBRA attains OFT approval

The Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association has become the second automotive body to be granted full approval of its Consumer Code of Practice by the Office of Fair Trading.

Around 700 body repair members will now ensure minimum standards of customer service are offered in areas such as complaints handling and providing information.

The VBRA’s achievement comes a month after the SMMT, whose New Car Code will monitor vehicle manufacturer’s relationships with car buyers and has the capability to fine VMs for poor performance. However, in contrast, the RMI decided to drop its CarWise scheme after failing to attain OFT stage 2 approval.

VBRA director general Ron Nicholson says the code will provide members with a strong commercial advantage. “This is a significant milestone for the VBRA and the industry setting the benchmark for businesses where customers can have work carried out in complete confidence,” he adds.

Requirements set out in the code at member level include the provision of written estimates or quotations to all customers, seeking customer approval before additional work is carried out, guaranteeing work for a minimum of 24 months/ 24,000 miles, and the appointment of a dedicated customer services manager for complaints or queries.

At industry level, the VBRA must provide a disciplinary committee to deal with members’ breaches, a conciliation service to handle customers’ complaints should a member’s own complaints procedure not settle the issue, and reference to a low cost arbitration process should customers’ complaints still can not be resolved. In addition, it will monitor customer satisfaction levels of its members.

Members which fail to deliver the minimum standards may face a fine or termination of VBRA membership.

The news drew rare praise from the Body Repair Industry Campaign (BRIC). “Any improvements in consumer protection for the repair industry are to be applauded. BRIC is supportive of all such moves,” says research director Shaun O’Reilly. However, he is continuing to press for industry licensing, believing it’s the only way to drive cowboys from the market.

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