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Increase in support fee angers bodyshops

Moves by estimating system supplier Audatex to increase its monthly support fee have sparked outrage amongst bodyshops.

From November 1, Audatex will be increasing its support fee from £45 to £65 per site. The extra £20 will be paid into a training fund for the bodyshop. Site owners will be able to see to see how much training credit they have via an online system.

Bodyshops have expressed reluctance to accept Audatex’s offer. One owner said: “I can train my own staff. I’m not happy with their decision to raise the fee and I don’t need them to save up a training fund for me.”

Andrew Moody, a solicitor at Retail Motor Law, said: “Unhappy bodyshops should write to the chief executive of the OFT, John Fingleton, and explain the situation.”

Moody also said garages should contact the Small Business Service and their local MP.

Robert Hadfield, from the Auto Body Professionals Club, said he could see the commercial need for Audatex to “move its business forward” but could also see the problems it caused to the “impoverished repairer community scrapping for every penny it can”.

In response, Paul Tucker, Audatex managing director, said: “We are in no way mandating that training must be taken from Audatex. Incidentally, this is the first increase in the fee for six years.

“A significant percentage of our repairer customers already take and pay for training from Audatex. For these customers, this incremental fee substitutes or replaces all or part of the fees for training which used to be invoiced for separately.”

When asked what would happen to the accumulated fund if a bodyshop went into administration, Audatex said it would not be refundable.

“The fund can be used to pay in whole or in part for any Audatex training courses. If the repairer chooses not to use the fund within 18 months from November 1, that is their prerogative,” said an Audatex spokesperson.

Bodyshops not having sufficient funds for training will be invoiced for the balance.

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