Tag Archives: Trading Standards

PK Automotive Solutions gets it right in Lincoln

I pride myself in sensing a naturally female friendly business when I walk into one. When this is part of a business compliance check (for FOXY Lady Approved garages or car dealers) there are a lot of clues to help me here. I’ll have had a look at their website in advance to look for details of their staff team, evidence of a commitment to quality standards, clean looking/functional customer facilities and an absence of unnecessary jargon.

I’ll have checked for membership of a Trading Standards Institute scheme, to see if there are licensed staff on the IMI’s Professional Register, evidence of other training courses/qualifications or local awards and any special customer services.

pk_exteriorI found all this and more at PK Automotive Solutions in Lincoln owned and run by Paul Killingsworth. Female staff, a smart business park environment (many garages are in off-putting industrial estates), modern premises, an enlightened and enthusiastic boss, time-saving tablet-based technology and a commitment to giving back to the motor industry.

The last bit is rare. Both PK Automotive and FOXY share an agenda for a licensed motor industry in future.

Our paths first crossed when I was doing some research about female apprentices. My client asked me to talk to a sample of young females including PK Automotive Solution’s Lois Lane. Since then PK has joined our FOXY Lady Approved garage network and is the only female friendly approved independent garage in Lincoln.

I met and interviewed Lois, an Apprentice Technician who is currently working towards her Level 2 in Light Vehicle Automotive Engineering. She is very keen and motivated and certainly well on the road to being a top technician. Watch this space.

Another two females can be found in the reception area of the business.

Rachel Henry is PK’s Administration Assistant (pictured behind the reception desk below) who was initially employed as an office apprentice but has since achieved her NVQ level 2 & 3 in Customer Service.

pk_receptionAmy Kent is the Office Manager who, after taking her initial apprenticeship, then took an advanced apprenticeship in Business Administration and NVQ levels 2 & 3. She has since completed her NVQ level 3 in Business Management.

And knowing this business’ hunger for knowledge and staying ahead of the rest, there will surely be more courses on offer for all who want and need them.

So I wasn’t at all surprised to see that PK Automotive has achieved the IMI Recognised Employer status and was recently presented with the plaque by Michelle Barrett from the IMI and the local MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney. This scheme ensures that PK’s customers can have the confidence that their car is in safe hands, and that any technician working on their car has the skills, knowledge and expertise to be able to complete the job to the highest standard.


The photograph marks the occasion of PK Automotive being presented with the IMI Recognised Employer status. From left to right; John Forrest (PK), David Holloway (PK), Lois Lane (PK), Paul Killingsworth (PK), Elaine Killingsworth (PK), Karl McCartney (Conservative MP, Lincoln),  Michelle Barrett (Business Development Manager, IMI), Amy Kent (PK), Rachel Henry (PK).

As I mentioned earlier, PK Automotive Solutions and FOXY are each pro-actively backing the IMI campaign to introduce licensing in the automotive sector. This means, if this is successful, that only professionals with relevant and sufficient qualifications, expertise and skills  will be able to undertake repairs on vehicles in future, ensuring customers safety and guaranteeing their peace of mind.

Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, also supports the IMI’s move for the automotive sector to be more regulated.

“I was very pleased to present the IMI plaque to Paul Killingsworth of PK Automotive as a result of the team’s 100% attainment of the IMI Employer Recognition Scheme.

“I am a proud champion of consumer safety and customer satisfaction and can foresee that, with the advent of ever more technically complex vehicles, and eventually driver-less cars, it is of the utmost importance that customers can trust their lives to the work done in all garages, whether large or small, both now and in the future.”

We are proud to be working with and promoting PK Automotive Solutions to local women drivers as well as ‘leaning in’ to the licensing debate together. This is the only way forward for our industry to be seen as professional, so motorists receive the service levels they deserve with a view to their road safety and wallet.


Yet another ‘rip-off garage’ survey; this time in West Sussex

How much did you say?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.


Used car log book scam in Herts

All women drivers need to be on the alert when buying a used car.  Hertfordshire Trading Standards officers have uncovered a new second-hand car scam; fake service logbooks which are readily available on the internet. An up to date logbook can convince you that a car has been well looked after when it hasn’t and you might pay more for it.

Trading Standards officers posing as customers were able to buy a number of forged car service history log books online varying in price from £9.99 to £35, as part of an investigation within the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign.

Each book had a variety of different miles and service checks for different car brands. In two cases officers were even asked how many stamps they wanted, including a pre-delivery stamp at the beginning of the book to certify that the vehicle had met inspection standards. These make it relatively easy to fake a vehicle’s service history; just write in how many miles the vehicle has travelled, with a dealer stamp.

In addition, two of the service history books had been illegally reproduced, infringing the car maker’s trademark.

Herts Trading Standards also report that their most common complaint is about used cars bought from independent dealers. In the first eight months of 2010 they received around 1,350 complaints. Whereas OFT managed Consumer Direct reports considerably more complaints to do with independent car dealers (c50k in 2009) than franchised ones but you are not immune here (c15k complaints).

Remember that this is an unregulated part of the motor industry; anyone can sell cars. Typical complaints include selling dangerous cars, charging misleading prices, quoting incorrect warranty terms and employing aggressive sales tactics and chatting up and patronising women of course. In addition, motorists have little or no protection in law if the used car they buy from a private individual turns out to be an expensive dud to run and repair.

Our advice to women considering buying a used car is to
choose a female friendly approved dealer who has signed the ethical FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need.’

  • Don’t buy one ‘as seen’ – this will negate your customer rights afterwards. This often happens at car auctions.
  • Always carry out the equivalent of an HPI used car history check in case of outstanding finance, theft or an accident write off
  • Consider commissioning a vehicle inspection (where this is not included – check what any ‘Approved’ status means if stated)
  • Check the authenticity of stamps in the service history book (where in doubt ask TSI for help here).

If you have any problems and are a member of FOXY Lady Drivers Club we’ll help you sort it out and, where the business is clearly disreputable, we’ll spread the word to other FOXY Ladies within your area – in a feminine way of course ;-).

Name, shame and blame seems to be the only way forward when TSI, Which? and other consumer watchdogs can’t tell consumers who the bad guys are ‘for legal reasons.’


Join FOXY Lady Drivers Club to know who and where the best garages, dealers and dealerships are in your area. This matters because otherwise your car could be unsafe without you realising this. And for a whole host of other good reasons too…