The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders expects the code to achieve stage one approval by the Office of Fair Trading by the end of this month. The OFT indicated its satisfaction with the code’s terms and the procedures set out to achieve compliance at a meeting with the SMMT in late January.
“Now we have to build up awareness and buy in and create an infrastructure to implement it, such as consumer advice line, arbitration and website,” said Paul Everitt, chief executive at the SMMT. “Work has started, but we have a large group of stakeholders so it takes time.”
He is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead. “There have been 11 attempts in 30 years by the OFT to try some form of self-regulation for service and repair – all have gloriously failed. Launching a successful one has never been done before so we are in uncharted territory.”
The National Consumer Council, which has the power to issue a super-complaint against the industry, is satisfied with progress made, despite the code being 17 months behind its original schedule.
Steve Brooker, NCC senior policy advocate, met with the SMMT last month. He told AM: “It was a very constructive meeting and we updated each other on progress with the code of practice. We’re very happy so far.”
The NCC is holding off from issuing the super-complaint, but Brooker said it could still happen if the SMMT didn’t maintain the current level of progress.
He added: “The key will be launching it to the trade. They have to sign up to the new code if it is to be a success.”
Everitt hopes the code will achieve stage two OFT approval in early 2009. OFT will be looking for proof that it works based on processes and the number of companies who sign up.
“We are working with an assumption of signing up 6,000 companies in the first year and we expect to have a significant number of subscribers when we launch the code,” said Everitt. “Then it will start to have an impact in the marketplace.
“It’s not about having everyone sign up; it’s about having a differentiator – customers must see it as a way of ensuring they get a minimum level of service.”
Customer awareness isn’t cheap, however, and Everitt recognises the need for promotion. He says the SMMT can advertise the code to the industry but he hopes to get support from the industry and from the OFT to market the code to the public.