A recent Trading Standards sting in which a Halfords Autocentre was handed a £28,000 fine, ordered to pay costs of £11,700.97 and a victim surcharge of £170 prompted an angry reaction among the UK’s independent garages.
The fast-fit’s Stratford-upon-Avon branch failed to rectify or report 11 separate faults on a Volkswagen Passat.
William Hibbert, representing Halfords stated that nationally, the company serviced 22,000 cars a month and relied upon their technicians and that sometimes they ‘cut corners’.
Recalling numerous other undercover investigations, Alan said: “The chief exec apologises, promises to ‘sort things out’ with the ‘odd one or two branches’ and the story goes away for a year or two.
“Until there are some proper checks done by either DVSA or Trading Standards, with proper fines and maybe even temporary revocation of testing licences – similar to how environmental health departments treat food establishments – then they will keep repeating the same thing over and over again.”
Many GW readers have suggested that poor practice is a common occurrence among the national fast fits and fear that it’s a problem that’s fueling a negative industry stereotype.
Tahair Tye Mohamed said: “This happens all the time in fast fit places.
“I used to worked for a company for less than a year in a fast fit centre and they tried to make me do things that didn’t need doing just so they meet targets.”
Commenting on the GW Facebook page, Kyle is of the same opinion and added: “The pressure which is placed on staff to get the work done quickly is too much, they are constantly overbooked.
“The technicians are afraid of losing their job if they don’t hit their ridiculous targets, which is why this goes on.”
It’s not just a fast fit issue though, according to Nick who said: “Main dealers also offer financial incentives to their aftersales staff.
“From the workshops through to the service advisors, the technician gets his hours up and the advisor gets there commission.
“It’s a viable scam that’s never questioned by the department manager, who of course is also under pressure to meet targets.”
It’s led to a number of GW readers asking what’s being done to protect the hard working independents that offer consumers a high standard of service.
Trust My Garage
The Independent Garage Association (IGA) last month launched an extensive TV and social media advertising campaign for Trust My Garage, which is a Chartered Trading Standard Institute approved code under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme.
The nationally recognised customer assurance scheme audits members to ensure high standards in service, working practices and training.
Speaking exclusively to GW Views, head of member services at the IGA,
Frank Harvey said: “We want to make sure the independent sector is recognised for what it does and TMG is the marque of good quality work and customer service.”
The network boasts more than 3,000 garages, all of which have subscribed to a strict code of conduct.
Frank added: “We’ve launched the new advert campaign to inform consumers that there is a network of trusted garages out there and that they can go online and find one that’s local them.”
Members of the Good Garage Scheme are recognised as providing exceptional service to their customers based on a rigorously monitored mandatory code of practice and regular independent audits.
A spokesperson for the Good Garage Scheme told GW Views that independents should seek to separate themselves from workshops do not operate under a code of conduct.
“Good Garage Scheme members service to a standard, not down to a price,” the spokesperson explained.
“For every service carried out, they supply the motorist with a copy of the industry standard service checklist listing 28 – 50 items carried out.
“This document is used by the garage as a quality check and by the motorist as proof of what has been done.”
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