Fleet News

Legal warning as garages fail test

FLEETS are being urged not to leave vehicle maintenance to chance after a major survey found 76% of garages failed to service cars correctly and in some cases left them as death traps.

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) also found that 36% of those garages left vehicles with major faults, including one with imminent brake failure.

It is now calling on the industry to ‘get its house in order’ or face demands for the Government to adequately regulate garages.

For fleets, a vehicle suffering a mechanical failure raises the issue of civil lawsuits, as warned by David Faithful, a partner with Clarke Willmott solicitors, at the Fleet News Double Jeopardy conference sponsored by Nissan and Lloyds TSB autolease (Fleet NewsNet, June 2).

He said that as the law stands, even if an outsourced servicing and repair firm has made the mistake, fleets will bear the brunt of the costs in a civil case.

Faithful said: ‘It’s becoming a case of ‘he who touched it last’. Please put some management systems in place to show there is an ongoing audit trail. The buck will stop with you because you are the user. It will come back to bite you in a civil case.’

Commenting on its servicing findings, TSI chief executive Ron Gainsford said: ‘This is a dreadful situation, which just hasn’t improved over the years.

‘It’s not just that consumers are suffering by paying for work which hasn’t been done properly – vehicles can be left unsafe, with the increased risk of accidents leading to people being injured or even killed.’

The survey has prompted vehicle management company LeasePlan to warn business to ensure they have enough control over the servicing of cars used by employees for business trips.

Managing director Kevin McNally said: ‘Companies may find themselves legally responsible for the condition of all vehicles used for business purposes, whether they are company cars or private vehicles owned by employees.

‘That means control over servicing is vital.

‘Businesses shouldn’t leave it to their employees to get their company cars maintained at the local garage – instead they should look for outlets with rigorous processes in place to manage quality of service. It may also be wise to introduce a policy providing guidance on the servicing of private vehicles used for business purposes.’

The TSI is now calling on the Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Scottish Motor Trade Association to resume talks with the Office of Fair Trading over proposals for a code of practice for the retail motor sector, covering car sales, servicing and repair.

TSI spokesman Peter Stratton said: ‘We have been working with the industry to encourage it to put its house in order.

‘I would say this latest survey should serve as a final warning that if decisive action is not taken immediately then we will call on the Government to adequately regulate this field of business.

‘This could even mean mandatory licensing, so that those garages that continually do a bad job could be struck off – their registration would be ended and they would cease business.’

RMI chief executive Matthew Carrington said: ‘The results of the latest TSI survey reinforce our commitment to raising standards of service for consumers in the retail motor industry.

‘We take the findings very seriously and we will work with trading standards to full investigate these claims. The RMI is developing with its members a rigorous code of practice which will address the standards issue while at the same time enabling consumers to distinguish which garages they can trust.’

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