Legal Article - Business Law

Car Servicing and Repairs and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

Many problems with servicing and repairs arise from the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the CPR's). Essentially if you say you are doing a manufacturers 20,000 mile service, or you are fitting a reconditioned gearbox, or you provide a 24-hour break down service etc, then you must fulfil these offers.

In the examples given above if you don't carry out all the items on the manufacturer's service, or you fit a second hand gearbox, or you close between 12 midnight and 8am then problems will arise.

Some garages carry out a basic service, which does not match all the requirements of the manufacturer's service. An offence would arise if the garage stamp was used in the service book implying that a full manufacturer's service was carried out.

Some garages also issue details of what items they check in their 'budget' services. Once again if the results don't match what they say they are doing then a prosecution can result.

A test case paved the way to make the supply of a car back to a customer, with deficiencies from the advertised service, a clear offence.

For any garage that carries out servicing to checklists, whether they are manufacturers recommendations or 'in house', it is imperative that they operate a Quality Control system if they wish to have any hope of establishing a legal defence if an employee misses out a particular item.

Garages frequently carry logos and wording suggesting they belong to particular organisations or are approved/recommended in some way by another organisation. Particularly the 'approved garage scheme'.

If the garage is not a member etc as indicated then once again a prosecution can result.

Overview of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

Overview of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 has been superseded by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (the CPR's) in June 2008.

The regulations prohibit unfair business practices and sets out what is considered to be one, namely:

(i) False or Misleading Actions
- Providing false information
- Providing false or deceptive statements
- Providing false or deceptive advertisements 

(ii) Misleading Omissions 

- Giving insufficient or partial information to consumers
- Hiding or failing to relay important information
(iii) Aggressive business practices

- High pressure sales
- Using threatening and / or abusive language
- Intimidation
(iv) Breaching Trade Practices of Diligence

-Failing to deal with complaints in an honest, fair and reasonable way
- Refusing to deal with a customer complaint / issue
- Failing to carry out pre-sale checks
(v) Using a 'banned' practice

- There are 31 banned practices set out in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulation guidelines.

Car Service Schedules

Car Service Schedules

If a service is carried out and either a menu service sheet is completed or it is described as a 'Toyota Corolla 10000 mile service' then it becomes a descriptive statement.

If it is wrong then it is a false or deceptive statement and would be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 .

If you put a stamp in a book and it is false it is an offence. If you enter it on an invoice it is another offence. If you have advertised it or verbally described it to the customer they are all offences.

The law on this is strict. You do not have to know it is wrong. You can in fact believe it to be accurate. It is simply a question of fact. If it is wrong you have committed an offence.

If you actually falsified  service records e.g. by stamping up a duplicate book then the act of incorporating the stamp or record is creating a deceptive statement and is an offence.

If you give a vehicle back to a customer with an incorrect service record, that you are not aware of, then you also commit an offence.

The difference in the two scenarios would be the penalty imposed. In the first case (falsifying a service record) the fine would be nearer to the maximum (currently £5000 at the time of publication) or even a prison sentence. In the latter case the fine is likely to be less.

Getting the Wording Right in your Paperwork

Getting the Wording Right in your Paperwork

Within the course of servicing and repairs certain items will be supplied to the customer with descriptions attached. An exhaust may be fitted described as stainless steel, a gearbox may be fitted described as 'reconditioned', or a particular battery may be supplied described as of a certain manufacturer.

In any such case a misdescription may occur. The order for the exhaust may get mixed up and a conventional steel one fitted. The gearbox may be simply a second hand unit and you may be completely unaware of the fact.

The battery may come from a different distributor and be from a different manufacturer.

It is so easy to fall foul of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regualtions. A simple mix up or change of ordering can cause a problem and you probably will not even know the switch has happened.

In some cases the customer may end up with inferior product e.g. mild steel vs. stainless steel. However an offence is still committed even if the product supplied is of exactly the same specification as the one described.

For instance, if the brand of battery makes no difference to its specification, an offence would still be committed if a different brand was supplied compared with its description, whether it be as ordered by the customer, or as described on an invoice/in an advertisement.

Replacement items are assumed to be new unless agreed otherwise.

Many garages offer peripheral services alongside routine servicing, repairs and MOT's carried out on a day to day basis. Perhaps a 24 hour callout service or a collect and return service for car servicing, might be offered.

Alternatively there may be an offer for a free brake check 'while you wait', or a free car wash with every service.

All of these peripheral offers have the potential to be false descriptions and if you do not carry out what is offered then a prosecution may result.

There are a number of trade organisations of which a garage may wish to advertise its membership.

This may relate to membership of a group, or an appointed repairer for an organisation, such as an insurance company, or a member of a law firm such as Lawgistics.

Whatever the description, whether it be words or a logo, then if membership of that organisation has expired, or if the previous user of the premises was a member and you are not, then a prosecution could result.

Liens - Abandoned Vehicles

Liens - Abandoned Vehicles

One aspect of law that is very relevant to service or repair operations is how to deal with people who won't pay for repairs carried out on a vehicle.

When someone delivers a vehicle to you under such a temporary arrangement as a repair you are classed as a 'bailee' and the customer is a 'bailor'.  In law a bailee for repairs is entitled to retain possession (called exercising a 'lien') until paid.

The same does not apply to routine servicing.

Motor dealers are able to exercise liens on cars although as soon as the vehicle is released, even without payment, the right to exercise the lien is lost i.e. the vehicle cannot be reposed.

If there was, say, a valuable item in the vehicle e.g. CD's or a coat then the customer would be entitled to remove those since they don't form part of the vehicle.  A fitted music system however could not be removed.

If a vehicle is abandoned and all efforts to get the owner to collect it fail there is a procedure under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 to dispose of the vehicle. 

It is important to use the correct procedure and give the right information in notices and therefore if the situation does arise please ring Lawgistics for assistance. 

Please note that if a payment is due the period between giving the notice and selling the goods must be at least 3 months. 

 Also, if there is a dispute about payment then this procedure can't be used in any event.

Author: David Combes

Published: 16 Mar 2011

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