PMM reviews some of the most common disputes investigated by The Motor Ombudsman, as part of its work to help drive even higher standards of work and service, and give consumers added protection, peace of mind and trust during the repair process.
Case 1: Rear bush replacement dispute
What was the issue raised by the customer?
Ms P booked her car into a garage because of a problem with clunking noises and the vehicle feeling unsafe to drive. When dropping it off, Ms P asked the garage to look at the rear bushes and to give her a quote for the work. A few hours later, she returned to find that they were in the middle of replacing one of the rear bushes as it had fallen out when the wheel was removed for inspection. Ms P was unhappy as she hadn’t authorised for this repair to go ahead and was not contacted by the garage about this. Ms P reluctantly paid for the work under protest and raised a complaint. However, the garage argued that Ms P had verbally pre-authorised any repairs within a reasonable cost, so they deemed it unnecessary to call Ms P for further authority when changing the rear bush. As a result, the garage claimed that the amount shown on the bill should not be refunded to the customer.
How was the problem overcome?
As the garage and Ms P could not agree on an appropriate resolution, the business referred the customer to The Motor Ombudsman to investigate the dispute further. The Motor Ombudsman proceeded to find that the garage couldn’t provide any evidence to demonstrate that Ms P had pre-authorised any work as this was allegedly verbal, and Ms P disagreed that she had given her consent. There was also no evidence to demonstrate that the repair to the rear bush was unnecessary, but even essential work has to be authorised under The Motor Ombudsman’s Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair, and ultimately, a consumer has a right to refuse any work being carried out.
To conclude the dispute, The Motor Ombudsman ruled in the consumer’s favour, and Ms P was awarded the cost of the parts and labour for the repair only. This was because Ms P had already authorised the initial investigation, so she was asked to pay for this.
How can a situation like this be avoided in the future?
If a previously unknown issue is diagnosed during the repair or servicing of a car, it is good practice for a garage to seek written authorisation from the vehicle owner to conduct any additional work that has not been pre-agreed and to confirm the cost of doing so. Work should not go ahead until contact has been established with the customer to avoid any kind of dispute or disagreement further down the line. Resolving a complaint amicably through means such as goodwill is also an effective way of helping to maintain long-term and loyal custom.