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Repair industry warned to end 'scandalous practises'

The servicing and repairs industry has until September 2007 to ‘clean up its cowboy culture’.

The ultimatum has come from the National Consumer Council which has threatened the industry with what is known as a ‘super-complaint’.

The consumer group said the garage industry has long been ‘bad news’ for consumers, but it was turning a corner.

Lord Whitty, NCC’s chairman, has written to Department of Trade and Industry ministers to set out a timetable and put forward the NCC plan of action to end ‘the scandalous practices that cost car-owners dearly’.

The NCC wants the industry to get Office of Fair Trading (OFT) approval for a code of practice and continue investment in raising skill levels in the workforce.

Lord Whitty said: “Our message to the industry is sign up now to these initiatives, and make a positive difference for consumers.”

NCC is urging the DTI to step up pressure on industry to reform over the coming months. If progress stalls, NCC urges the DTI to regulate – with an industry levy to fund dedicated enforcement activity to bring errant garages to book.

The Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders welcomed the news that the NCC delayed its super complaint against the motor industry.

In a joint statement, the RMIF and SMMT said: “The NCC move follows considerable progress under the guidance of the DTI Retail Motor Strategy Group towards developing an industry consumer code under the OFT consumer codes approval scheme.

“That means one affordable code that is open for all businesses to join in the retail motor sector, whether they are independent garages or franchise dealers. The industry code is intended to supplement the valuable work others have done recently to promote better service standards, including BSI's PAS 80 Kitemark which is already available to all in the sector.”

Christopher Macgowan, SMMT, chief executive, said: “Our sector is united in its commitment to drive up standards in service and repair.

“But we need to be clear that the threat of a super complaint is still very real. We have worked hard to convince the NCC that we are serious about raising our game and we must continue to develop the tools to do the job with absolute urgency.”

“The motorist sees us as one industry and their best interest has to be at the heart of everything we do. One code for the industry which they can rely upon is therefore vital for building consumer confidence,”said Matthew Carrington, RMIF chief executive.

The RMIF's objective is to have a single code run and monitored independently.

The threat of a super complaint followed concerns about poor consumer protection across the service and repair sector. The NCC had set Friday for the industry to prove it was united in taking action to improve the consumer experience.

Had action not been taken, a super complaint would have been submitted to the OFT.

  • What is a super-complaint?

    Section 11 of the Enterprise Act 2002 (EA 2002) enables consumer bodies designated by the secretary of state to submit ‘super-complaints’ to the OFT where they consider that there is any market feature, or combination of features, such as the structure of a market or the conduct of those operating within it, that is or appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers.

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