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Progress made over industry code

Industry figures insist the code of practice for the car servicing and repair industry is moving forward after the text of the code was agreed by all members of the Retail Motor Strategy Group (RMSG) last week.

The National Consumer Council (NCC), which has been threatening to file a “super complaint” against the industry for the last 19 months, said it was hours away from issuing the letter to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) if the text had not been agreed.

The code’s aim is to protect consumers, through criteria set by OFT standards. It will ensure garages maintain standards, are accountable, and will help people find reputable garages signed up to the code.

The NCC has weakened its standing by repeatedly not taking action despite its threats. It set an initial deadline of September 2006 for agreeing the code of practice. When this was not reached, it was extended to September 2007. This was still not achieved, yet no super complaint was issued.

Carl Belgrove, NCC senior policy officer, said: “We have seen small steps from the industry. It is frustrating that it hasn’t been sorted sooner. A super complaint would take a while to be resolved, so we avoid these as much as possible. However, if we have to do it, we will.”

Belgrove expects the code to be fully in place with OFT- approval by spring 2008. If it fails to be, he said, the NCC would issue the super complaint.

Roger Putnam, RMSG chairman, said: “We all felt self-regulation was the best way to use our own expertise for a code. When something has to fit such remote bodies as small independent garages and everything else, it’s best that we regulate ourselves as we have the most knowledge.”

Getting a code together has been problematic. Duncan Corrie, RMSG secretariat said delays had come from the enormity of the task, rather than specific sticking points.

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