My blood boils when I read about bad garage surveys. The latest states that only one out of eight garages tested by West Sussex Trading Standards carried out all the required work on a test car with known problems.
Imagine the safety implications here. Not just the vulnerability of many female motorists but the accidents that badly repaired or inadequately serviced cars can cause for us all.
We can’t prove it for obvious reasons but we suspect that many women on their own don’t complain because they don’t realise they’ve been ripped off or, even worse, despatched with a car that’s unsafe.
Why am I surprised by rip-off garages?
No-one should be surprised that garage surveys like this produce these such shameful results across the UK. This is an unregulated industry where
+ anyone can open a garage
+ mechanics don’t have to be qualified
+ the industry’s Motor Codes scheme covers dealerships/garages that opt-in (and bad garages don’t for obvious reasons); an added complication is that HM Government runs this ‘OFT approved code’ scheme and is reliant on the subscriptions from it
+ the Trading Standards recommended scheme ‘Buy With Confidence’ merely covers customer service issues (not any measurable quality workmanship that should underpins the business).
Even worse, few motorists realise this or the risk they run when choosing any garage.
FOXY would like all car mechanics to be accredited
Why is it that gas fitters, plumbers and electricians need to be qualified to practise their trade but mechanics don’t? Yet they can repair safety issues such as the brakes on our cars.
The perfect solution is the Institute of the Motor Industry’s ATA accreditation scheme where mechanics are assessed, sign an ethical commitment and have to do it all over again three years later. Regardless of whether they are dealership or garage employees, all mechanics should be required to take this test before working on our cars.
And what a shame WSTS is unable to publish the names of the offending garages here. When we’ve asked about this in the past Trading Standards have said ‘we can’t tell you for legal reasons…’ which is a cop out we feel – knowing how many vulnerable women are prey to the unscrupulous and/or incompetent garage staff out there.
West Sussex garage survey details
West Sussex County Council’s Press Release PR4996 confirms that a selection of garages were targeted on this occasion following complaints from members of the public. This is worrying in itself because it indicates a history of shoddy workmanship rather than a one-off mistake which can be forgiven. A test car was prepared beforehand by Trading Standards and then taken to each garage for a service and pre MOT check.
Examples of rip-off garage behaviour this time include
+ an oil filter which was charged for but not changed
+ a tyre was said to be damaged when it wasn’t
+ a part of an exhaust was said to need replacing when it wasn’t faulty
+ an engine was overfilled with oil (which can be as costly as too little oil)
+ extra work was done and charged for without permission
+ low tyre pressures were not checked/topped up (with potential safety implications here).
Formal action is now being considered by Trading Standards against four of the garages.
Christine Field, County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “Motorists need to be able to trust their garages won’t exploit them, as most people are unlikely to be able to check the claims for themselves. In the present economic climate, people are feeling the pinch, and need to be able to rely on work being done competently.”
We wholeheartedly agree Christine but the only way we’ll ever see this is through industry regulation. In the meantime, the best solution is for female motorists to join FOXY Lady Drivers Club so we can identify, monitor and share the details of the best garages together. In this way women drivers can steer clear of the rest (and tell their menfolk of course).
To find out more about this subject read FOXY’s Good Garage Guide.
To find out which garages have signed the FOXY Promise ‘to never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need’ in West Sussex please visit the FOXY Choice website and its female friendly garage network.
To tell us about good, bad or indifferent garages/dealerships in West Sussex please leave your female garage feedback here.
If you have a problem with a garage, you can contact the marvellous Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506. But even they won’t know the inside story here and what the many logos and competing quality schemes actually need. For informed advice, information, assistance and support female motorists can also contact FOXY Lady Drivers Club (FOXY as in shrewd, canny and discerning which is what women need to be when choosing a garage)…
We’re also a not for profit and 100% independent company which means we really are doing it all for the motorist. If you’d like to know more, read what the Daily Telegraph said about us (and Mandy, a Scottish widow in particular) and this very issue.