Motorists get industry backing in fight against rip-off garages

29 August 2008 #SMMT News

Motorists get industry backing in fight against rip-off garages


The motor industry has today launched a robust new code of practice to improve the standards of garages across the country, addressing complaints which cost consumers an estimated £4billion a year.


Motorists now have the reassurance of a new scheme and tough enforcement regime to ensure fair and honest treatment by garages.


Responding to consumer concerns over pricing, quality of work and customer service, the new Code now commits subscribing garages to:

* Honest and fair services

* Open and transparent pricing

* Completing work as agreed

* Invoices that match quoted prices

* Competent and conscientious staff

* A straightforward, swift complaint procedure


And offers motorists:

* An online search facility allowing consumers to locate their nearest subscribing garage

* A free consumer advice line

* Free conciliation and low cost, legally binding arbitration


Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Rt Hon John Hutton said:


“Most people have experienced first hand, or heard from neighbours and friends, horror stories about run-ins with rogue garages. For too long the bad practices of a minority have damaged honest businesses and ripped off consumers.


“I’m delighted that the industry has got together to tackle this problem and drive up standards. Regular inspections, tough penalties, a helpline for advice and a searchable guide will help people to get a good deal.”


Motor Codes director, Chris Mason, continued:


“This is one of the most important pieces of consumer protection in the last 30 years, giving motorists peace of mind when getting their car serviced or repaired.


“The Code has been developed with the support of the service and repair sector, government, trade bodies and the consumer lobby in order to clean up the image of the garage trade and increase consumer confidence. The Code will raise the bar when it comes to customer service but also offers advice, conciliation and arbitration, should a dispute arise involving a subscribing garage. Wherever possible we aim to resolve any issues before the vehicle leaves the repair outlet, but if not, the Code provides an easily accessible and robust dispute resolution mechanism when required.”


The Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair has received the backing of trade bodies and consumer groups.


Alec Murray, chairman, Retail Motor Industry Federation

“There have been many schemes introduced over the years, some of which work quite well as business improvement tools, but none have had the teeth to address the issues of consumer protection. This code has been developed to do exactly that. We are all very proud that our efforts to date have been recognised by the OFT but this is literally just the first stage. At only £75 annual subscription fee, garages must ask themselves why they would not want to sign up to this affordable scheme.”


Paul Everitt, chief executive, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

“Most garage businesses will meet the criteria needed to comply with the Code and so we are confident that consumers will soon be seeing more and more of the Motor Codes logo appearing on service and repair outlets up and down the nation. An honest and reliable garage will probably be complying with the Code requirements already and with consumer awareness increasing, those that don’t subscribe will surely want to join and add it to their marketing toolkit.”


Steve Brooker, National Consumer Council

“The public launch of the Code of Practice marks an important milestone towards achieving real improvements in a sector that has let down consumers for far too long. However, the Code must be more than a paper promise – garages up and down the country must sign up and meet the standards set down, so consumers can be sure they will get a competent job at a fair price. We hope that garages recognise that there will never be a better opportunity to transform the motor industry and improve its reputation among consumers.”


After a three-month subscription period that saw thousands of businesses log on to to subscribe to this groundbreaking initiative, the Code goes live to consumers today. Having satisfied the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that the Code promotes and safeguards consumer interests beyond the minimum requirements of consumer law, the Code has now completed stage one of the OFT’s Consumer Codes Approval Scheme.


What is the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair?

An industry-wide, self-regulating Code of Practice to promote and safeguard consumers’ interests by helping them to identify better businesses and encourage garages to raise their standards of customer service

Any garage in the UK which services and/or repairs cars or light commercial vehicles can sign up to the Code, providing they agree to meet the standards set

Annual subscription fee will be £75 per outlet, with a further cost of £175 every 24 months for a compliance check

Full details can be requested by interested garages from

The Code will be monitored by the Code administrator (Motor Codes Ltd), which is in turn monitored by the OFT

Subscribing garages will face a regular compliance check to ensure they continue to meet the standards set out in the Code


Advice to consumers:

Visit to identify your nearest subscribing garage

In the event of a dispute:

Speak to the garage’s dedicated customer service representative

If unable to resolve the complaint, phone the free consumer advice line

Refer complex cases to the conciliation service

If conciliation does not resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the consumer, subscribers will agree to independent arbitration, with a fixed fee for each party, if the consumer wishes

Freepost reply forms available at each garage or online via, allow garage customers the opportunity of appraising Motor Codes of the sector performance


Background to the Code:

* National Consumer Council (NCC) publishes paper “At a crossroads – getting the UK car servicing and repair sector back on track” claiming shoddy repair work was costing the consumer £4 billion a year. NCC called for the industry to obtain and maintain full OFT approval or be subjected to legislation

* Industry acknowledges poor perception of the sector and starts development on strategy to alter positively the views of consumers

* 12 November 2007: Retail Motor Strategy Group gives SMMT thumbs up to house Code body and continue development

* November 2007: Consumer Minister, Gareth Thomas MP is reassured that this is a means of addressing the estimated £4 billion a year cost to consumers through shoddy service and repairs

* May 2008: Development continues with the Code launching to the trade, starting the subscription process

* 29 August 2008: Code completed stage one of the OFT’s Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, the first step to OFT approval and went live to consumers


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