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NCC criticizes code ‘bickering’

The National Consumer Council is losing patience with the “bickering” between the motor industry’s trade associations in their attempt to formulate an industry code of practice for service and repairs.

It has reminded the partners involved in the code that time is running out before the September 30, 2006, deadline for OFT Stage One approval. Failure to meet this deadline could prompt the NCC to make a ‘supercomplaint’, the first step to statutory regulation, although it says the industry is confident of gaining approval.

“Bickering in the trade press between the industry bodies can only undermine recent progress,” says NCC senior policy advocate Steve Brooker, in a letter to AM.

“Consumers will be growing increasingly frustrated at these exchanges, and surprised that the industry is choosing to wash its dirty linen in public.”

The NCC warns it will use its powers without hesitation if this is necessary to secure a better deal for consumers. However, it would prefer to see service and repair standards improved through self-regulation, with the support of all industry stakeholders.

Brooker adds: “With only weeks remaining on our timetable this is not the season for knock-about pantomime. We call on the industry groups to put aside their differences and work together on this issue. Please put the interests of consumers first and make a final push to get the code approved.”

The RMIF had accused the SMMT of not fully understanding the problems faced by garage owners, and that it was trying to force through a code that favours carmakers.

The SMMT has also been accused of attempting to exclude company car drivers. The code makes the complaints resolution service available only to retail customers. This has drawn criticism from both the RMIF and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association.

BVRLA director general John Lewis fears company car drivers will be treated as “second class citizens” as they don’t pay directly for servicing and repairs.

The SMMT claims the code had to be drawn up to OFT guidelines, which stipulate that the code must focus on the consumer, not the business user.

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