A year of complaining: how the Motor Ombudsman helps drivers

A year of complaining: how the Motor Ombudsman is helping drivers

Dealing with complaints for an entire year probably won’t seem like anyone’s idea of a good time. But that is exactly what the Motor Ombudsman was set up for. And after a year of resolving disputes between drivers and garages, the organisation says complaints remain high.

Founded last November, the Motor Ombudsman is a voluntary and fully impartial private sector organisation to regulate the motor industry. With a code of practice set out by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, it offers drivers a free dispute resolution service. This covers areas including car sales, servicing, repair, and warranty problems. Read on to find out what’s been driving motorists round the bend in 2017.

What is making people complain?

The majority (two thirds) of complaints relate to defects with cars when handed over to new owners. Next on the list of grumbles is the approach of staff during the sale (16 per cent). And in third position is the level of aftersales support by garages following the purchase of a vehicle. This includes inaccuracies with a business’ advertising materials, at around 10 per cent.

How many drivers complain to the Motor Ombudsman?

Although not everyone contacts the Motor Ombudsman to complain, projections for 2017 show it is on course to handle 34,000 contacts from consumers. That’s up by 35 per cent on last year. These relate to its four codes of practice.

What are the codes of practice?

The four codes of practice are the New Car Code, Vehicle Sales Code, Service and Repair Code and Vehicle Warranty Products Code.

The New Car Code covers new cars that are under manufacturer warranty, the terms of the warranty, availability of spare parts and the way staff deal with customers.

Anyone that has had the unfortunate experience of dealing with pushy sales staff can turn to the Vehicle Sales Code. It spans areas including wording of adverts, transparency of pricing, vehicle provenance checks when selling a used car, test drives, advice about warranty and finance products and the handover of a car and its associated paperwork.

The Service and Repair Code relates to franchised dealers and manufacturers, as well as independent garages. It’s designed to cover having a car serviced and maintained. Its purpose is to ensure honest and fair service, work that’s completed as agreed, transparent pricing and invoices that match quoted prices.

The final service is the Vehicle Warranty Products Code. This provides drivers with reliable advice, factual advertising, all terms and conditions, a cancellation period and a fair claims procedure.

Which drew most complaints to the Motor Ombudsman?

The majority (two thirds) of complaints relate to defects with a car when it is handed over to the new owner

Top of the charts was the Vehicle Sales Code. It has seen a 39 per cent increase in consumer contacts to the end of September this year, compared with 2016. It covers 40 per cent of all complaints.

Holly McAllister, head of Customer Service and Quality at the Motor Ombudsman, said: “As we have seen for the majority of 2017, and throughout the third quarter, the Vehicle Sales Code continues to witness the greatest volume of consumer contacts.”

McAllister added: “This demonstrates simply how much demand there is for our service, re-affirming our position as the ‘go-to’ point of reference for any motoring-related disputes.”

Next is the Service and Repair Code (29 per cent), followed by the New Car Code (27 per cent).

Are complaints resolved to drivers’ satisfaction?

It seems the Motor Ombudsman is doing a good job of being an intermediary. Out of the 27,600 contacts received during the first nine months of the year, only 1509 had to be escalated to a formal case – a rate of 5 per cent. That means that 95 per cent of people resolve their dispute without needing adjudication.

Worryingly, there has been a sharp spike in cases during August, September and October with 857 raised. Time will tell if this trend continues.

Does the industry learn from the Motor Ombudsman?

Holly McAllister believes the work of the ombudsman is helping raise service standards across the car industry. She said: “Being at the heart of the automotive sector, and handling contacts from consumers and businesses on a daily basis, has allowed us to provide valuable feedback to the industry to continue driving up standards.”

How to contact the Motor Ombudsman

Consumers can call on 020 7344 1651 or email them at info@tmo-uk.org. For further information on the service provided, visit its website.

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