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Record complaints about car repairers blamed on cost-of-living crisis by garage watchdog

The Motor Ombudsman has recorded its highest quarterly number of complaints about garage repairs, with rising financial pressures cited as the driving factor

Record complaints about car repairers

Customer complaints about car repairs carried out by garages and workshops have reached record levels, according to the industry’s self-appointed watchdog.

The Motor Ombudsman (TMO), says there were just over 1,600 cases about repairs and servicing reported to its dispute resolution service between the beginning of January and the end of March 2024. That represents a 35 per cent rise in that type of complaint compared with the same period last year.

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This figure also represents a substantial leap over the previous quarterly high of 1,372 cases, recorded in the final three months of 2023. The 1,600 complaints about car repairs and servicing in the first quarter of 2024 accounts for roughly a fifth of the total number of cases submitted to TMO, which gets complaints about other aspects of its members’ operations, too.

TMO says these cases were logged under its ‘Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair’, and it attributes the rise in complaints to the ever-increasing cost of living. The cost of compensation demanded by customers has risen too, with complainants asking for an average compensation figure of £4,308 – up from £3,060 in early 2023.

Rather than pointing to a reduction in the quality of service from the thousands of garages voluntarily accredited to its code of practice, TMO says the big jump in demand for its services is “likely a reflection of the sustained financial pressures on consumers from the heightened cost of living, and the growing number of individuals seeking to recoup losses after encountering an issue with their vehicle”. In response to the latest data, TMO Managing Director, Bill Fennell, said: “Routine and ad hoc maintenance is a vital part of running a car, and when something goes wrong, this can be a source of frustration and inconvenience for motorists.

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“With an already busy start to the second quarter, we expect this uplift in the volume of calls and case submissions to be sustained as we go through the year.”

Across all the servicing and repair complaints submitted in the first three months of 2024, the biggest area of concern amongst consumers was the treatment given to their cars’ drivetrain. Comprising just over a third of all submissions (37 per cent), they related to faults such as incorrectly calibrated fuel injectors, as well as stripped threads on the oil sump pan drain plugs due to overtightening.

The second largest group of issues addressed the level of customer service provided. Representing almost a third of complaints (27 per cent). Owners were unhappy with supply constraints and other delays, ill-equipped workshops and the use of non-genuine parts.

Poor maintenance regarding the car’s chassis was the third-biggest area of concern for motorists, making up 14 per cent of issues raised. Common complaints included incorrect wheel alignment and damaged items such as tyre pressure sensors and brakes during repair work.

10 per cent of complaints surrounded issues regarding the car’s electrical systems, with buggy software updates causing errors, hybrid and EV battery failures and temperamental start/stop systems all quoted as frequent concerns.

Most of the complaints received were about diesel cars, representing almost half (48 per cent) of the total. Petrol cars were next (41 per cent), followed by hybrids (six per cent) and EVs (five per cent).

If you’re struggling to resolve an issue regarding the maintenance or repair of your vehicle, contact The Motor Ombudsman’s Alternative Dispute Resolution service here

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Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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