Government-backed garage watchdog to start in August
27 May 2008

Wrangles over poor garage servicing and repairs should become easier to resolve when a new government-backed garage watchdog is launched in August.The watchdog will launch a consumer helpline capable of handling 100,000 calls a year, matched to a dispute and arbitration process that will aim to sort out disagreements within a couple months.Called the Motor Industry Code of Practice, it has been set up by the car-makers body, the SMMT, after pressure from the Office of Fair Trading and National Consumer Council, which estimates around £4b worth of dodgy repairs are carried each year.“We aim to give this scheme real teeth and capable of quickly resolving and sorting out problems,” says the Code’s boss Chris Mason.Around 5500 of the country’s estimated 20,000 repair garages are claimed to have already signed up for the scheme, with a target of doubling that to 10,000 in the next twelve months.The Code will be voluntary with garages paying £75 to register. Garages will be bound by a set of operating rules and rated on a web site according to their performance.Complaints and problems will count against their web rating, which will be backed-up by an unannounced inspection every two years.Motorists will be able to check a garage’s rating, a bit like Ebay buyers can check sellers’ ‘feedback’ to choose a garage they believe they can trust.The country’s 10,000 or so franchised and high-street service outlets are all expected to join, but Mason says extra effort will go into signing up independent and local garages.Interestingly, the National Consumer Council report that triggered the creation of the new watchdog made no distinction between levels of problems at franchised and independent repair garages.

Julian Rendell

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