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The big picture: NCC likely to delay decision

Next month the National Consumers Council will inform the Government whether it intends to make a super-complaint about the car repair and servicing industry.

It follows a nine-month stay of execution during which time the industry was supposed to establish an Office of Fair Trading-backed code of practice. Failure would lead to the NCC, which is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry, making its super-complaint. And that is the first step to DTI legislation.

Well, the industry does not have an OFT-backed code of practice, nor is it anywhere near establishing one, although the SMMT – which four years ago called for mandatory licensing – is developing one. Interestingly, the DTI has also put pressure on the SMMT to start regulating car retailers, although there’s some reluctance by the association to move into the RMIF’s territory.

However, the industry does now have a technician accreditation programme (ATA) and it also has the BSI Kitemark scheme.

The likely outcome of the NCC’s conversation with the DTI is an extension to the deadline. The NCC does not favour imposed regulation; it recognizes that it adds costs, which are usually charged to the consumer.

The Kitemark scheme has yet to be embraced by the industry. Only three repairers are reported to have signed up. The ATA is having more success, with more than 1,500 technicians undergoing accreditation. That’s still a tiny proportion of the overall industry, which is why the NCC will most likely give both schemes a bit more time to make a real impact before making a final decision on the super-complaint – perhaps up to six months.

If repairers want to escape mandatory licensing, then more need to commit to the ATA. The NCC claims the industry has tried and failed 11 times to introduce self-regulation. It will not extend the deadline for a second time.

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