While the service book said a cambelt should be fitted, the garage and the leasing company, which Withers refused to name, had different ideas. Withers said: 'As my vehicle lease ends in February 1999 the servicing dealer had to request permission from the leasing company to fit the belt as in his words, 'they may not want it fitted'. In the event permission was given.'
However, if permission had not been given and the service book stamped in the normal way the servicing dealer would be committing a criminal offence under the 1968 Trades Descriptions Act for making a false statement. The maximum penalty is a £2,000 fine or six months in jail.
'I've no idea how common this practice is, but I assume it is widespread because of the matter-of-fact way in which it was handled. It seemed quite normal and is obviously done to save money,' Withers said.
He said the leasing company's and dealer's attitude had serious ramifications when the car was sold at the end of its fleet life.
'The service book will say the car won't need a camshaft belt for another 70,000 miles. The dealer and/or fleet company faces a civil claim for the cost of replacement or repair of engine damage if anything goes wrong.'