Botched repairs by garages 'cost drivers £170m a year'

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The Independent Online

Repairs done by garages cause 1.3 million extra problems for motorists each year and the cost of unnecessary work and correcting faults amounts to £170m, the Office of Fair Trading says in a report.

Repairs done by garages cause 1.3 million extra problems for motorists each year and the cost of unnecessary work and correcting faults amounts to £170m, the Office of Fair Trading says in a report.

Ministers are expected to launch an urgent inquiry into garages, who were accused yesterday of performing "potentially dangerous" work after an investigation by the OFT.

Motor servicing generally was denounced as unacceptably poor by John Bridgeman, director general of the OFT, the Government's consumer affairs watchdog. Mr Bridgeman said: "The question has to be asked: how many of the 40,000 serious injuries and 3,000 deaths every year in Britain may be due to poor servicing and repair?"

Mr Bridgeman said that some garages were providing "a critically unsatisfactory service - some of it deemed to be potentially dangerous". He said consumers faced a series of problems, including final bills that were higher than expected and garages being vague about costs and the precise details of what was included in a service.

Mr Bridgeman said it was the third time in four years that the OFT had investigated part of the motor industry because of consumer concerns. The OFT called for a high-level task force of industry, consumer and government representatives and independent experts to prepare an action plan within six months of its first meeting. It was proposed that it should report to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Local authorities' trading standards departments should also get tough with local garages, the report said.

Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said the findings were disturbing. He is expected to back an investigation into the issue. "We shall take the appropriate action to meet [car drivers'] concerns. I shall consider John Bridgeman's recommendations as a matter of urgency," he said.

David Evans, chief executive of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents about 10,000 garages throughout Britain, said: "Today's report is welcomed for exposing disreputable and unscrupulous garages, which bring down the good name of the reputable and respectable trade." The federation had taken "huge steps" to improve and monitor standards. It said 25 million car services were done each year and the OFT received about 10,000 complaints - less than 0.25 per cent of all services.

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