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More press coverage needed from OFT

More than 70% of motorists are still unaware that they can use a non-franchise dealer for servicing without invalidating their warranty. That’s the finding of a survey of 400 motorists carried out by fast-fit operator Hi-Q.

There has been confusion in the industry despite clarification in the changes to the block exemption regulations in October 2003. This highlighted that independent repairers can carry out maintenance without invalidating warranties, provided the service is in accordance with the manufacturers servicing schedules and the parts used are OE equivalent.

According to the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) the industry is still in the dark as much as the motorists.

“We still don’t have an industry that understands the regulations in terms of warranties and we are not practising what the regulations allow us to,” says Ray Holloway, director of independent membership at RMI.

“It’s an industry responsibility but there is also a part for Government to play. The Office of Fair Trading talks about freeing up consumer rights, so why don’t we see more press coverage from them on this topic? I think there should also be a statement that goes out with all new cars explaining warranty details.”

With over 2.5 million cars sold last year, its clear that independent repairers are missing out on a huge profit opportunity, and those in the industry are calling for manufacturers and dealers to be more open about their warranty conditions.

“Dealers should stop telling lies to motorists who ask whether they can take their car elsewhere for servicing,” says Brian Spratt, chief executive of the Automotive Distribution Federation (ADF). “We get a lot of calls from motorists telling us that their dealer claims warranties will be invalidated if they use independent garages, or if they don’t use ‘their’ parts, or if the garage isn’t VAT registered – all of which is absolute rot!”

Spratt believes that responsibility for getting this message to motorists has to lie with the EU and UK authorities.

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