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Motor Ombudsman to 'expand scope' of Vehicle Sales Code in 5th year

The Motor Ombudsman has revealed that its Vehicle Sales Code has resulted in over 100,000 contacts from concerned car buyers in the five years since its launch.

Marking the scheme’s first half-decade of operations this week, the free automotive dispute resolution service said the decision to launch the code in September 2016 resulted in a 171% increase in the number of consumer contacts and a 756% uplift in cases compared to the year before.

To-date, over 100,000 customers have made enquiries in relation to the code, which overs the sales of both new and used cars, with more than 11,000 cases passed to The Motor Ombudsman in the same period, with an average consumer claim value of around £8,400.

And Bill Fennell, the chief ombudsman and managing director of The Motor Ombudsman, said that the scope of the code was about to be broadened to reflect the changing car retail environment.

Bill Fennell, The Motor Ombudsman chief ombudsmanHe said: “The automotive retail sector in the UK has changed significantly since the Vehicle Sales Code was first introduced in 2016.

“In fact, the last five years has seen the industry navigate periods of both buoyant and depressed car sales, as well as uncertainty and unprecedented challenges brought about by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“However, one common factor has remained, which is that there has been a consistently high level of demand from consumers for a specialist and free automotive dispute resolution service to conclude a dispute brought about by a new or used car purchase.

“This thereby reaffirms that our decision to introduce a Code of Practice in this area five years ago was the right one.”

In 2016 The Motor Ombudsman’s Motor Industry Code of Practice for Vehicle Sales became the only Code of Practice to cover the sale of both new and used cars and was the fourth Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Code of Practice to join the portfolio of The Motor Ombudsman.

It was introduced following the arrival of the Consumer Rights Act and the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Regulations in 2015, raising an awareness of consumer rights among car buyers.

The Vehicle Sales Code provides comprehensive guidelines for businesses on nine different areas, spanning the use of transparent wording and the supply of clear documentation, to the provision of accurate advice on warranty and finance products.

Over 50% of consumer disputes falling under the Vehicle Sales Code have been the result of a breach concerning the inferior quality of a new or used vehicle supplied at the point of purchase.

Inadequate aftersales support to the customer, and inaccuracies in advertisements have also been some of the largest issues raised by consumers during recent years.

Fennell said: “Turning our attention to the next five years, we will be looking to expand the scope and reach of the Vehicle Sales Code in line with the evolution of the fast-changing automotive landscape.

“This is so as to ensure that it continues to meet both the needs of consumers, and businesses operating in the motor industry.”

Issues of vehicle quality are likely to be drawn into ever-sharper focus as car retailers across the UK search harder to source used cars in a sector which Cox Automotive insight and strategy director, Phillip Nothard, described as “staved of stock”.

Nothard said that market forces mean it is quickly becoming the case that “any stock is considered good stock”.

During 2021, The Motor Ombudsman has released a series of thought leadership papers exploring the vehicle sales dispute trends seen during the first six months of 2021.

AM recently reported on the findings of the first such paper, which highlighted a need for car retailers to identify customers’ needs and respond with empathy to social media posts after the online platforms became a key mouthpiece for vulnerable car buyers.

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