A new garage service industry scheme is designed to boost standards and impose tough penalties for garages that break it.
Aimed at tackling a common consumer gripe about poor garage service, the Motor Industry Codes of Practice went live on 29th August. More than 23,000 complaints were made to Consumer Direct in 2007, and recent surveys agree.
The code is a voluntary scheme with more than 4,000 members already signed up. The scheme has the backing of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF). A range of methods including mystery shopping is used to monitor the performance of member garages.
The new code requires members to achieve a minimum standard before they are allowed to display the logo on their premises.
Members must give a cost breakdown in any quotes or estimates, and if the garage recommends further repairs are needed it must phone the customer to gain approval before starting the work. Member garages must not ask for, or accept, up-front deposits.
Significantly, the scheme also includes a helpline for consumers who feel they may have been unfairly treated, and a website where approved garages are listed, as well as a helpline (0800 692 0825). The scheme is also policed by RAC engineers via a ‘mystery shopping’ procedure.
John Hutton, the Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, said: ‘Most motorists have experienced horror stories about run-ins with rogue garages. For too long the bad practices of a minority have damaged honest businesses and ripped off consumers.
‘I’m delighted that the industry intends to tackle this problem and drive up standards. Regular inspections, tough penalties, an advice helpline and a searchable guide will help consumers get a good deal.’
Those garages that are found to fail the standard, either by mystery shopping or via upheld customer complaints, will be investigated by Motor Codes Ltd and, if no improvement is shown, eventually removed from the scheme. Details of these garages would then be passed on to trading standards officers, as well as being displayed on the Motor Codes website.
Currently, membership of the scheme represents only a small proportion of all garages, but Motor Codes hopes to recruit more garages in the near future. ‘Our aim is to have between 8,000 and 9,000 garages signed up by August 2009,’ said Motor Codes director Chris Mason.
This would represent around a third of all garages, although Mr Mason admits it’s very difficult to find a real figure for the total number of garages in the UK.
Which? motoring senior researcher George Marshall-Thornhill is guardedly optimistic about the scheme. ‘We are in favour of the Motor Codes aims, and welcome the website and advice line that empowers consumers, helping them make informed choices.
‘But the scheme must recruit more members, and demonstrate that it is not afraid to expose shoddy practices, before it will have a real impact on an industry where consumers are let down far too frequently,’ he added.
If you need help finding a good garage, check the Motor Codes website as well as Which? Local.
If you have experienced a garage displaying the Motor Codes logo, or have any comments about this story, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org