News item

Poor service costs Halfords Autocentres £19,000

Halfords Autocentres Ltd failure to carry out a satisfactory full service proved very costly after the business was fined £3000 and ordered to pay costs of £16219.61 and a £15 victim surcharge.  District Judge Jellema in his written judgement described the poor service as ‘not an isolated occurrence at the Nuneaton branch’.

Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service took the prosecution after sending a vehicle to Halfords Autocentres Ltd, (Wheat Street Nuneaton branch) for a full service. The car, a VW transporter, was one of a number of vehicles sent to garages across the county as part of an undercover car servicing project. The garages chosen for the project had all received complaints..

A Trading Standards vehicle expert placed a number of ‘faults’ on the VW Transporter in order to see how many the garage rectified. Fluid levels and tyre pressures were reduced, washer jets misaligned and working bulbs were replaced with duds. Vehicle parts were also secretly marked to see for example, if the wheels were removed to examine the brakes or the pollen filter checked.

In all, seven faults placed on the vehicle were missed. All should have been picked up in the full service, the cost of which was £197.

Janet Faulkner, Head of Warwickshire Trading Standards said:

“Consumers, many of whom will not have the skills to know if a service has been done correctly or not, have to trust garages to carry out car services properly.”

“Garages that fail to carry out this work to a satisfactory standard, as well as ripping off consumers, are potentially returning their customers cars in an unsafe condition, putting lives at risk.”

“Warwickshire Trading Standards will work to help ensure that garages are carrying out adequate services, advising businesses that want to get things right and taking enforcement action against those who are not taking their responsibilities seriously.”

The Nuneaton branch of Halfords Autocentres Ltd missed seven faults placed on the vehicle that should have been spotted and either rectified or notified to the owner, as part of a full service. The fluid levels for the power assisted steering and the brake master cylinder reservoir were still low when the vehicle was returned and should have been topped up. Dud bulbs had not been replaced, the pollen filter had not been checked and a windscreen washer jet remained misaligned. Finally, the vehicles spare tyre remained underinflated.

At Leamington Justice Centre on Thursday 16th May 2013, Halfords Autocentres Ltd was found guilty of an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

In his written judgement,  District Judge Jellema noted that the problems revealed by the Trading Standards March 2011 survey were not an isolated occurrence at the Nuneaton Branch and were actually a reflection of similar repetitive known failings at that branch over a significant period of time leading up to 2011. The company had not shown that any effective measures had been taken to address these concerns.

He further stated that the companies’ quality control procedures had not been properly carried out and that no documentation had been provided to show that either of the individuals responsible for the service had undergone appropriate training on the companies' systems and procedures.

In addition to missing issues that should have been covered by the service, District Judge Jellema also stated that a number of significant further defects on the vehicle were not brought to the owner’s attention, as they should have been.

Halfords stated that an internal investigation in to the matter, prompted by the enforcement action taken by Warwickshire Trading Standards, revealed that quality control procedures were not being followed at the garage. Some of the individuals responsible for the service were consequently dismissed.

The car servicing project was carried out in March 2011.

• To make a consumer complaint, call Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06.
• Follow Warwickshire Trading Standards at: www.twitter.com/warkstss
 
-Ends-
1) Mr Richard Dewsbury represented Warwickshire County Council
2) Mr David Travers QC represented Halfords Autocentres Ltd

For more information, please contact: Simon Cripwell, Trading Standards Officer (01926) 414039 or 07771 975570.

The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 040506.

The Citizens Advice consumer service provides a first-stage consumer advice service for Warwickshire Trading Standards.

DATE: 20 May 2013