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RMI denies ‘exodus’ claim

Rumours that repairers have begun quitting the Retail Motor Industry Federation because of its failure to gain OFT approval for CarWise have been flatly denied by chief executive Matthew Carrington.

Industry sources claim that many independent garages specifically joined the RMI in anticipation of the Office of Fair Trading’s endorsement of CarWise. One adds that members have been demanding back their subscriptions.

Carrington refutes the claim, although he admits “a few” have left. He says the federation is considering whether to take legal action against the OFT, which he accuses of “reneging blatantly” on the criteria and timetable initially stated in order for CarWise to gain approval. The RMI claims it has lost £500,000 because of the code’s failure to achieve stage two approval.

“Very few joined because of CarWise,” says Carrington. “We said at the time that we would refund CarWise subscriptions (£100+VAT per outlet) and we are doing that, either with a cheque or discount off next year’s subscription.”

The RMI has 10,000 members, 6,000 of which are independent garages. It is consulting them about reapplying for OFT approval.

Carrington says some have “expressed delight that something so bureaucratic isn’t going to happen”.

Still furious about CarWise’s failure, he casts doubt on the OFT’s ability to handle the complexity of the RMIF’s project, saying that it “found it difficult to take decisions”.

An OFT spokeswoman denies this, citing the SMMT and VBRA code of practice schemes that have achieved stage two approval. They are, however, the only two organisations to achieve stage two approval. Three have achieved stage one.

The RMI plans to progress CarWise as its own code, but has come in for criticism from consumer magazine Which?.

“The attitude of the RMI towards its so-called code of practice shows that it can’t be trusted to have any role in policing garages,” a Which? spokesman claims. “Despite widespread flouting of the code, the RMI has kicked out only four garages since 2001.”

Carrington says RMI members achieve an average audit compliance of 80 per cent.

“The RMI has a highly respected conciliation and arbitration service with independent representation. Most problems are resolved at this stage and disciplinary hearings are rarely necessary, so few garages are thrown out of membership,” he adds.

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