Garages fail to deliver a good service: Surveys expose 'sloppy' repairs

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The Independent Online
ELECTRICIANS can't change plugs and garages make a mess of car servicing. And as for that 'dream kitchen' - just watch it turn into a nightmare.

The hazards of letting tradesmen loose on your belongings are detailed in the latest issue of Which?, which reveals surveys showing that only two out of 36 garages tested serviced a car well and nine out of 16 electricians made mistakes with plugs.

The magazine also lists rising prices, poor workmanship and company bankruptcies among the risks facing people installing a new kitchen. One woman had to wait nearly six months for the job to be finished and was presented with a bill for nearly twice the original estimate.

The garage survey found little difference between franchise dealers and independent garages or between garages 'approved' by bodies such as the AA, the RAC and the Retail Motor Industry Federation and non-approved garages. The two best garages were not approved and the worst was approved by all three.

Most garage servicing left cars with a catalogue of faults, according to Which?. Half the garages surveyed were rated as poor by vehicle testers and one as very poor.

Fifteen garages failed to spot blown bulbs and 13 missed a loose wheel nut. Only 10 inflated tyres correctly. Two fitted brake pads without the owner's permission. Two recommended repairs to a 'lock problem' when it only needed a child-lock to be switched off; a third charged for adjusting a lock but there was no sign of the work having been done.

Which? describes the standard of servicing as sloppy. According to John Beishon, chief executive of the Consumers' Association, the standard of servicing was no better than three years ago, when it carried out its last survey.

Paul Kitchen, a senior editor of Which?, said: 'Motorists expect trained mechanics to be right. Many garages are continuing to exploit motorists' inability to check work.'

The magazine's researchers also found that two out of 16 electricians called in for a minor electrical repair left plugs in a potentially dangerous condition and another seven failed to change plugs satisfactorily. Six turned up without spare plugs or fuses.

Although electricians from electricity companies performed rather better than independent electricians, their call-out charges were much higher - up to pounds 20 more.

Eleven out of the 16 failed to mention a residual current device, costing pounds 20 and described by Which? as a 'crucial safety accessory' for appliances such as lawnmowers or hedgetrimmers. The 11 included representatives of two supply companies, Norweb and Seeboard, and 9 of the 13 independents.

Only work done by Eastern Electricity excelled.

The magazine's survey of tariffs and customer relations in the 15 supply companies says that Yorkshire Electricity is the best and Northern Ireland Electricity the worst.

In England, South Western Electricity, which was awarded a charter mark by the Government for 'improvements in service', sells the most expensive electricity, is equal worst at keeping appointments and has the worst record for warning of planned power cuts.

Leading article, page 25

Dealers accuse Ford, page 31