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Clock ticking on code’s stage one OFT deadline

The National Consumer Council (NCC) has further relaxed deadlines imposed on the motor industry to come up with a cross-industry code of practice for servicing and repairs.

Initially, the industry was given until September 2006 to get Stage One approval and September 2007 for achieving full Office of Fair Trading (OFT) code approval at Stage Two.

Now it seems the NCC is happy that the industry may finally gain Stage One this September, a full 12 months behind schedule.

Sceptics point out that the DTI’s Retail Motor Strategy Group, which oversees the code’s development, had earlier claimed it would be ready last March after it missed its original deadline.

Steve Brooker, NCC senior policy advocate, said: “We are optimistic about meeting the September deadline. However, if it doesn’t happen then we will need to decide on the best course for consumers.”

Its ultimate punishment is to issue a super-complaint to the OFT. This could prompt an OFT investigation and legislation to regulate the motor services industry.

Duncan Corrie, RMSG secretariat, said: “The clock is ticking and as the end of September approaches all eyes will be focused on us.

“Everyone has been working hard to produce a code, but it won’t get approval unless it’s workable and does what it sets out to do.”

Corrie said that the delays have come from the enormity of the task, rather than specific sticking points.

“We have done lots of work to resolve problems and as the code has evolved we have been addressing many different issues,” he said.

“It’s not a quick win and it’s very important that we get it right.

“All sectors, including manufacturers and independent repairers, have been working together. It’s an industry wide code so it’s in everyone’s best interest.

“Even though everyone has different needs, the overall objective is the same.”

Getting a code together has not been without problems, however. Last year, a row broke out between the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF), whose then chief executive Matthew Carrington accused the manufacturer body of ‘hijacking’ the code.

The AM view

The code of practice is becoming an embarrassment. A year late and indebted to the NCC extending its deadline – yet again. How much longer can its patience be tried before a super- complaint is issued? With yet another survey blasting standards of service, the September deadline has a note of finality about it.

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