The National Consumer Council (NCC) has come up with a plan of action to end ‘scandalous practices’ in the car repair industry.
It says the garage industry must adopt codes of good practice, as currently half of UK garages do not offer an acceptable service.
Last year the NCC threatened to refer the whole garage industry to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for a full inquiry.
But it has held off because since then, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has developed a code of practice for members, while the British Standards Institution has developed a garage ‘kitemark’ scheme.
Last week Fleet NewsNet’s sister group Sewells Information and Research revealed that fleets were feeling increasingly let down by their dealerships on issues including servicing and repairs.
NCC chairman Lord Whitty said things had to improve, but added: ‘The garage industry has long been bad news for consumers.
‘The good news is that the industry is now starting to show some signs of turning the corner. However, there is still a long way to go before Britain’s 25 million car drivers can be sure of a fair deal.’
The NCC estimates that the average driver overpays for repairs by £150 a year. Unless things improve, it says it will lobby the Government for formal regulation.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said the industry was committed to raising standards. He added: ‘But we need to be clear that the threat of a super complaint is still very real.’
Although the focus is on consumers, fleets will also benefit from the enforcement of higher standards.
Matthew Carrington, chief executive of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, commented: ‘The motorist sees us as one industry and their best interest has to be at the heart of everything we do.
‘One code for the industry which they can rely upon is therefore vital for building consumer confidence.
‘The RMI’s objective is to have a single code being run and then monitored independently.’
The NCC will reassess the situation in September 2007.