Making a motor complaint – what you need to know

A recent press release confirms that The Motor Ombudsman has dealt with some 9700 contacts, presumably enquiring about making a complaint between April and June 2017.

Just imagine dealing with this sort of angry volume!

That’s presumably including many who are considering complaining about businesses that are signed up to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Code Of Practice scheme covering new cars, used car sales, service and repair garage work and car warranties.

Whilst this Ombudsman has quite a lot of dealers, garages and warranty providers signed up to their scheme I wondered where motorists with problems at non member dealers or garages go? So I googled and found the Consumer Ombudsman website but again, if the business you want to complain about isn’t part of either of these schemes you’re on your own it seems.

And never was this as evidently dysfunctional a process as illustrated by comments made below the AutoTrader article that introduced me to the Consumer Ombudsman. I imagine these may well be from individuals who bought a car from an AutoTrader advertiser? Too many for AutoTrader to handle one presumes from the absence of any acknowledgements.

So, keeping this blog short and to the point, if you didn’t know that car sales, servicing and repairs are largely unregulated areas within the motor industry and you accidentally chose a garage, a dealer or a warranty product that isn’t part of a Chartered Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice scheme you might be interested to read what happens when things go wrong?

Well, by and large, the answer is ‘not a lot’. You’re mostly on your own and because of this too few motorists take matters further, fobbed off by inadequate warranties or not realising their rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Which is a great shame and probably why the industry maintains its lacklustre image tarnishing the many good car dealers in the process.

Coping With a Motor Complaint

So, what should you do if you have a complaint about a car, a dealer or a garage? Here’s some advice.

1) Stay calm. Nice people stand a much better chance of getting a solution than difficult ones. Know who you speak to and when. Document your conversations. If you’re a member of FOXY Lady Drivers Club make sure we know… and that they know we’re watching the outcome with interest.

2) If you’re dealing with a manufacturer approved or franchised dealer or garage you ultimately have the car manufacturer to escalate your complaint to but you’ll still need to demonstrate that you gave their annointed garage or dealer the chance to rectify this before they failed.

3) Don’t imagine that you can simply go to another garage to get things put right or that garage number one will pay your bills if you do. They don’t have to. You should give garage number one the chance to put it right – even if you’re simply going through the motions.

4) Even if you’re unhappy with a business bill, you are usually required to pay it but you should write on the invoice ‘Paid Under Duress’ to show you didn’t want to, it wasn’t good value and/or the problem wasn’t rectified.

5) Remember that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

i) Goods shouldn’t be faulty or damaged when you get them, subject to a price reality check of course ie the greater the discount the lower the standard of expectation.

ii) Goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.

iii) Goods supplied must match any description given to you*, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.

* _as in any privately sold vehicle advertisement_

How to Resolve a Faulty Product

Here’s how to get a faulty motor product replaced or repaired within The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

a) If the vehicle in question is of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described you can claim/get a full refund within 30 days. Don’t hang about.

b) If you are outside the 30-day ‘right to reject’ you have to give the dealer or garage one opportunity to repair or replace any goods which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

You can state your preference, but the retailer can normally choose whichever would be cheapest or easier for it to do. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.

c) Check if the business concerned is part of a Trading Standards Institute scheme as in

New cars The Motor Ombudsman
Car Sales The Motor Ombudsman
RAC Used Vehicle*
Car Servicing & Repairs The Motor Ombudsman
Car Servicing & Repairs Trust My Garage*
Car Servicing & Repairs Bosch Car Service*

*they handle any complaints about their members.

And take your complaint to them once you’ve had a final/unacceptable offer from the offending business.

Don’t forget that you might have recourse from a credit card company if you used one to pay here.

Flaws Within Motor Industry Complaint Processes

I don’t know how many motorists contact the general Consumer Ombudsman or The Motor Ombudsman with a complaint about a motor business that isn’t one of their subscribers. I’d imagine quite a few are then bitterly disappointed to discover that their rogue dealer or garage isn’t covered here.

I don’t know another industry that makes such a selling point out of their complaints processes! I’d much rather the whole industry was subject to Government regulation to ‘out’ the bad guys.

If I knew nothing about the motor and automotive industry I’d not realise that both these Ombudsmen services are closed shops because they are only handling complaints concerning THEIR subscribers.

Stating the fairly obvious, bad car dealers and garages are the ones least likely to join a quality scheme yet this is where most of the complaints will come from. Regardless of the feedback they all somehow manage to produce for Google.

As things stand, motorists who make the ‘wrong’ garage or car dealer choice are stranded all too often and it costs them too much to further their cause, deterring many from using the courts or identifying offenders this way.
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As I see it, the best idea is to have ONE Motor Ombudsman to cover the whole of the motor industry – regardless of whether a business subscribes to a CTSI scheme or not.

Of course ONE Motor Ombudsman scheme covering all car dealers and garages would be the equivalent of regulation (like MOTs are regulated by the DVSA) – this would be my preference.

We’d then be able to ‘out’ the (too many) bad guys and help the (too many) mediocre ones do a better job to benefit motorists and their business alike.

Sadly this would starve the Chartered Trading Standards Institute from earning out of as many competitive schemes as they can sell to, per Code Of Practice scheme. And whilst I can see a significant business case for one scheme rather than many, our current Government is no fan of regulation they tell us.

Even when the detriment is as great as it is in this area and the implications are as far reaching re car safety.

Finally it just might be significant that The Motor Ombudsman is part of The SMMT (Society Of Motor Manufacturers And Traders) and that Trust My Garage is part of the Retail Motor Industry’s Independent Garage Association. Of course they both try to be 100% impartial when it comes to customer complaints and the CTSI Code dictates how the process is managed, but I can’t help thinking about turkeys and Christmas. Like it or not, both organisations have a vested interest in shareholders and stakeholders ahead of Joanna Public.

FOXY

The purpose of this blog is to alert women drivers that, if all else fails, FOXY will have a look at their complaint and possibly share their experience within The Club to benefit other female motorists. We’ll consider naming and shaming evident cowboys in our Red Card rogue gallery. By all means email info@foxyladydrivers.com and better still join The Club to support our hard work here.