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OFT goes quiet on ad support for CarWise

Divisions are growing between the sales and repair divisions of the retail motor industry over the attempt to outlaw rogue traders and win consumer confidence.

The RMI insists its CarWise code is “on course” to win Office of Fair Trading approval by late summer – much later than the original spring target – but influential figures in the bodyshop sector believe its proposals are too weak to be effective.

The Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association is one of the first four trade organisations to gain stage one recognition under the OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. Acceptance of a commitment to conform is followed by stage two – evidence an organisation can meet the criteria.

One body repair sector insider says: “The VBRA's code is more specific than the RMI's, and provides guarantees, but we need something that covers both the sale and repair of vehicles. The repair business will never be fair for car users until businesses are licensed, because that is the only way to win public support and respect.

“There have been 10 or so attempts to clean up the trade over the past couple of decades, with varying degrees of Government support, and we still don't have anything that works.

“We have to accept that some body repairers are cheating insurance companies and the whole sector is in a mess. The RMI's CarWise scheme will allow the honest and competent operators to put up a sign, but do nothing to stop the rogue businesses.”

The RMI, which is going through a 'marriage of convenience' with the VBRA likely to lead to a full-blown takeover this year, hoped by now to have stage one status. It also expected the OFT to launch a multi-million pound promotional campaign last month, but this will be delayed for an unspecified period.

RMI franchised dealer director Alan Pulham says: “The delay in the OFT's acceptance of CarWise has been caused by them moving the goal posts. They have accepted the validity of our mystery shopping and other procedures, but want changes in bureaucratic areas, like documentation and legal matters.”

Matthew Carrington, RMI chief executive, adds: “We have a strong base from which to build a comprehensive standards programme for the entire sector. Representatives of the National Consumer Council and trading standards will sit on our independent supervising committee to monitor self certification by garages using a checklist.”

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