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Which? attacks CarWise good garage scheme

The March issue of Which?, complemented by a news release, says the CarWise schemedue to be launched later this month by the RMI, has “fatal flaws”.

The Consumers Association does not believe that the motor trade should be left to regulate itself, and argues for an independently managed quality assurance scheme in combination with the licensing of technicians, who it claims exhibit a “generally poor standard of training and competence” . The CA undertook a telephone survey of its members and says 98% of respondents confirmed their willingness to extra for an approved technician to work on their car, despite what Which? calls “the excessively high costs that UK customers already pay for servicing”. The CA's Phil Evans has previously said that independent garages were not only cheaper but better than their franchised dealer counterparts.

In its release on the CarWise scheme, the CA names The IMI, BMW, Harley Davidson, Kwik-Fit and Toyota as supporters of technician licensing, and suggests that a Government-estimated £10m cost of administering an independent scheme rather than voluntary self-regulation would represent a cost of just 35p for every car on the UK's roads; it reckons the specific cost of a technician licensing scheme passed on to motorists would cost them an extra £5 on a £150 service.

RMI chief executive Matthew Carrington hit back today, saying: “RMI CarWise Code garages will guarantee to consumers a high level of service. Garages in the scheme will carry a logo enabling consumers to recognise those that comply. The scheme will be operated by the RMI, and will be monitored via mystery shopping exercises run by an independent supervising committee, under the auspices of the OFT and the Department of Trade and Industry.”

He continues: “The RMI is respected within the sector and has the experience and resources to administer the scheme. Our existing membership will not find rules a problem either, as they are already used to adhering to stringent membership criteria. This is a strong base from which to build a comprehensive standards programme for the entire sector. Given these facts, who is better placed than the RMI to run such a scheme?

”The RMI CarWise Code is about the overall running of garages, and as a result covers more than just qualifications for technicians. Good garages will always employ appropriately qualified or trained staff, and will encourage ongoing training for staff during their employment. Accreditation of technicians can of course play a vital role in standards, but this is only a part of what is needed to make a reliable garage. The Code will ensure consumers receive an overall good service.

”It is a shame that the Consumers Association does not support the Code,” added Carrington, “They were invited to participate via the scheme's Independent Scrutiny Committee, but the invitation was declined. If they had been involved they could have helped police the scheme.”

- The RMI web site has for some time solicited members' views on technician licensing via an online poll. The results of the polling have yet to be published.

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