Specialists under fire

2 Nov, 2006 (All day) Ross Pinnock

Independent dealers fail to provide the service offered by their franchised counterparts, say consumers

Independent dealers fail to provide the service offered by their franchised counterparts – that’s the verdict of consumers. Auto Express has already revealed how used cars are the second most popular cause of complaints to the Consumer Direct helpline (Newsweek, Issue 933). And non-franchised garages account for the majority of these calls.

More than 42,000 disgruntled motorists have contacted the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) hotline regarding second-hand vehicles so far this year, yet a whopping 27,161 of the calls lodged relate to models which have been purchased from independent dealers. Private sales accounted for only 2,575 complaints.

And it’s the same story when you look at customers who rang about auto repairs and servicing, which contributed nearly 17,000 calls. Of those, 10,549 related to work carried out at independent garages, with fewer than 5,000 about franchised outlets.

Poor workmanship from mobile services prompted only 235 complaints. It wasn’t all bad news for motorists, though, because breakdown services have attracted a mere 179 phone calls to the consumer hotline in 2006. Meanwhile, customers aren’t the only people queuing up to vent their anger about used car dealers. The OFT has warned that some firms selling payment protection on finance agreements are not treating buyers fairly, by failing to give clear information.

However, Matthew Carrington, chief exec­utive of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, defended dealers. He told Auto Express: “Part of the problem is that the regulations in general are far too complex, and this places a heavy burden on the industry.”

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