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Agreement on code despite RMIF concern

The RMIF has clashed with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders over comments made by its chief executive Christopher Macgowan in AM suggesting the motor industry code of practice for service and repair has the full support of all the key industry stakeholders.

RMIF chief executive Matthew Carrington claims this is not true and that the code of practice is actually a SMMT code as opposed to an industry code. He told AM that the SMMT is trying to force the code through without keeping key stakeholders informed of its progress or, indeed, true agenda. As such, the RMIF has withdrawn its support.

“If the SMMT can’t work with us on this code then we will have to find ways to work with other stakeholders such as the IMI and SMTA to develop a code of practice to satisfy the NCC and DTI,” says Carrington.

“We already have the basis of a code for the aftermarket and we could work with stakeholders to set up a code – we wouldn’t try to do another RMI branded code, it needs to be an industry code.”

However, these views are not supported by members of the Retail Motor Strategy Group’s Sherpa group responsible for looking at customer service standards. Members who were at a meeting held this week report a constructive conversation about the code of practice.

“A consensus was reached about the way forward for the code of practice,” says one attendee. “Everyone agrees that we need a code; the discussion is now about the detail, such as arbitration and the entry level for the standards.”

The code has already gone to the Office of Fair Trading for Stage One approval – the decision to push it forward was taken to help the industry avert a super-complaint threat by the National Consumer Council.

The OFT has highlighted a number of issues for clarification which will be divided between the Sherpa group members – which include SMMT, RMIF, manufacturers, franchised dealers and independent repairers - for further action. The group is due to meet again in June.

Carrington, who was unable to attend the meeting due to other commitments, has shown AM a letter from the SMMT on behalf of the Automotive Aftermarket Liaison Group (AALG), inviting him to attend a meeting on garage standards to be held this week (May 19).

The letter says: “A single code for the entire garage sector would have been ideal, but the recent announcement of an industry code apparently aimed more at franchised garages appeared to have foreclosed that option.”

Carrington says this proves the code is little more than an SMMT standard for franchised dealers and, as such, it will not meet the requirements of the National Consumer Council to prevent the super-complaint going ahead.

“We have told the SMMT that we have to have a joint industry code of practice with all the stakeholders involved but the SMMT said no,” he says.

“We will have a God Almighty row at the next RSMG meeting (May 25). It’s a manufacturer code and it won’t do what the NCC wants it to do and that’s to have sign-up by a sufficient number of repair outlets to make a difference to the industry.”

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