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New rules to protect motorists from dodgy mechanics

A new code of practice has been introduced to stop motorists being ripped off or given shoddy service by mechanics.

The code has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and covers around 6,500 dealerships and garages across the UK.

It is being run by the Motor Codes organisation and will be policed by a network of RAC engineers who will inspect each garage that has signed up.

What the code guarantees

Under the code, mechanics will be obliged to make their costs and charges transparent.

So customers will be entitled to a written breakdown of fees and mechanics will have to seek permission to carry out extra work over and above what is originally agreed.

Drivers will also be able to leave feedback on the Motor Codes website, which will be made available to potential customers, and a straightforward, low-cost complaint service will be introduced.

Companies which breach the code can be warned and ultimately thrown off the scheme.

Car repair "daunting"

Colin Brown, director at the OFT's goods and consumer group, said: “Getting your car repaired and serviced can be a daunting experience.

He added that now "drivers can be confident that where they see an OFT approved code logo they will receive a high standard of service and will be treated fairly if problems arise.”

Chris Mason, managing director of Motor Codes, said: “Motor Codes set out to improve standards in the car service and repair sector and raise consumer confidence, highlighting responsible businesses.

“This announcement sends a clear message that we offer a comprehensively backed code of practice and our large network of garages delivers real peace of mind for the consumer.”

High level of complaints

The OFT’s Consumer Direct arm said it had received almost 18,000 complaints about car servicing already in 2011.

This was the 12th largest source of complaints, with gripes about second-hand cars topping the list.

Recently, we reported on a Bristol garage whose owner was prosecuted after selling a defective 16-year-old tyre to a motorist who then suffered a blow-out on the motorway within 24 hours of the tyre being fitted to the car.

The OFT said that it only approved codes of practice which were proven to be effective and which offered consumers greater protection than that which they were entitled to in law.

Drivers can also use the Motor Codes site to find a local garage which has signed up to the code.

What do you think? Does this new code spell the end of shoddy workmanship and hidden charges? Let us know your views, and your experience of garages – both good and bad – by leaving a comment below.