Fleet News

Government task force targets cowboy car mechanics

A ROW has broken out about whether a Government 'good garage' scheme will really give fleet managers a better steer when looking for high quality service and repairs.

A Government task force looking into shoddy workmanship, dubious practices and poor services in the repair industry has concluded that minimum standards, market testing, codes of practice and mystery shopping should be applied to improve service levels in garages.

Consumer affairs minister Melanie Johnson said: 'The industry must now do something about the thousands of complaints from dissatisfied customers every year.

'We will do what we can through consultation and, if necessary, through regulation. But the buck stops with the motor trade itself. The industry must take strong action to improve standards and rebuild consumer confidence.'

However, the Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents franchised car dealers and independent service and repair garages, argues that such a system would pointlessly mirror what the federation already does.

RMI chief executive David Evans said: 'Garages already have the option of voluntarily joining a trade association like the RMI which sets out and monitors minimum quality standards in its membership criteria. There would be little value in replicating such a system.'

The RMI also pointed out that around 25 million services take place each year and the Office of Fair Trading only receives 10,000 complaints annually - around 0.25% of all services.

However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, while agreeing with the Government's sentiments, called for more draconian measures: a compulsory licensing scheme which would cause underperforming garages to either sink or swim.

SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'On paper, a voluntary scheme might seem like a good idea, and the quality end of the market will readily sign-up to a set of standards. Others will simply ignore it and carry on regardless.

'A well-enforced and compulsory licensing system is the only way we can ensure that those who provide shoddy service are weeded out and removed from the market.'

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