Fleet News

Garage service standards set for shake-up in wake of OFT report

FLEETS could benefit from improved car servicing and repairs in the future, after a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) urged the industry to clean up its act. Although fleet operators were not required to give their opinions about standards of car servicing for the report, all consumers are set to reap the rewards of seeing the industry, which is worth more than £9 billion annually, given a thorough overhaul.

The investigation, launched in April 1999, revealed poor workmanship causes customers 1.3 million extra problems a year, with additional costs estimated at £170 million and an urgent inquiry into the nation's garages now looks likely to take place.

Common problems highlighted included the final bill being higher than expected, garages being vague about costs and details of what the service involved and not having enough information to help consumers shop around for reliable garages.

Director general of the OFT, John Bridgeman, said: 'Our research has confirmed that the quality of car servicing and repair in Britain is often unacceptable and motorists have little chance of discovering this or how final bills are justified.

'Our overall verdict on the service provided by many large firms, franchised dealers and local garages is that it is unroadworthy and needs a thorough overhaul. The question now has to be asked: how many of the 40,000 serious injuries and 3,000 deaths every year in Britain may be due to poor servicing and repair?'

The commonest complaints were:

  • Final bills higher than expected

  • Vague information about costs

  • Being charged for work not carried out

  • Being charged for parts that didn't need replacing

  • Lack of precise details of what was included in the service

  • Too little access to information detailing reliable garages, allowing owner to shop around

  • Being led to believe that warranties always tie the owner into servicing by franchised dealers

The OFT has called for a high-level task force of industry, consumer and Government representatives and independent experts to prepare a plan of action within six months of its first meeting. This will then report to the Department of Trade and Industry.

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