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NCC delays super-complaint

The National Consumer Council is due to report on the findings of its investigation into the motor industry this week (March 31) and will inform the Government whether it intends to make a super-complaint against the £6bn car repair and servicing sector.

AM understands that the NCC, which is part funded by the Department of Trade and Industry, will publish a mixed report that will criticize and praise the industry in equal measure.

It is likely to hold off from making a super-complaint at this time, instead extending the deadline until autumn at the earliest – though a 12-month postponement is possible as it tracks progress on a number of key issues. These include the British Standards Institute’s Automotive Kitemark, which was launched last September, but has failed to curry favour with many applicants, and the Institute of the Motor Industry’s Automotive Technician Accreditation scheme.

The NCC is expected to put its weight behind the Kitemark, believing it presents the best opportunity for the automotive industry to meet standards that are recognized by the public.

That’s the boost the BSI needs and should result in a flood of applications from repairers. However, it will raise question marks over the involvement in the service and repair sector of the RMIF, whose Carwise scheme failed to win OFT Code of Practice approval, and the SMMT, which is developing its own code.

In its original statement last June, the NCC said it would give the RMIF a nine-month deadline to agree a code of practice for the industry.

The RMIF has been involved in all three of the DTI Retail Motor Strategy Group’s working parties looking at quality, standards and training and says the NCC has been kept fully up to speed with its discussions.

Director of sales and marketing Gary Elliott reiterated the association’s calls for a single code of practice for the industry. “It needs to raise standards, be affordable and mean something to the consumer,” he says.

When questioned over the nine-month deadline, Elliott adds: “We believe we need more time to sort things out.”

He praises the BSI’s Kitemark as a “good standard”, but says it is too expensive for many garages. The BSI fee is £745 a year, plus a one-off £745 pre-licence charge.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has closed its investigation into BMW’s and General Motors’ distribution and servicing agreements following changes to bring them into line with Block Exemption.

The changes ensure that BMW and GM dealers and repairers are not restricted in selling or servicing cars of competing brands. They also remove barriers to entry to the authorized repairer network.

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