Although complaints about the services that garages provide have soared in the past few years - to 27,396 last year from 19,286 in 1992- the impetus for an investigation came from evidence provided by local trading standards officers. The OFT last investigated the car servicing industry in 1983 and made several recommendations, including the introduction of menu-pricing and that garages ensure that all servicing work was done.
John Bridgeman, OFT director general, warned that the current investigation would not just be aimed at back-street garages but also at national chains. 'The idea that this problem does not affect large chains is a myth. We have evidence that poor standards are widespread. And this is not just a problem affecting private car users but fleets as well,' he said.
The investigation will not only cover shoddy work but also 'over-servicing' (where parts are unnecessarily replaced) and 'phantom' servicing (where a charge is made for a part that has not been touched). A survey will be carried out starting in June to gather drivers' experiences and see how fleets are treated by garages. Submissions will also be invited.