Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Business: The Company File
Car repairers face competition probe
Can the industry repair its tarnished imaged?
Car repair centres are facing a competition crackdown amid complaints that they are ripping off customers.
The investigation comes after a rise in the number of complaints from disgruntled customers who feel they have had to pay too much to have their cars fixed.
John Bridgeman, the head of the OFT said: "We spend £8.9bn a year on car servicing and repairs but are we getting value for money or are we being taken for a ride?"
"In my view this is a sector which is in urgent need of investigation. We need to know more about the nature and extent of the problem and what can be done about it," he added.
The number of people reporting car repairers to trading standard officers has doubled over the last decade.
The OFT is concerned that customers are liable to receive too little information about what work is being done on their cars.
They are also worried that a lot of the work is done on cars that is not needed - and therefore car owners are overpaying for routine repairs.
Motoring organisations welcomed the launch of the inquiry.
"The consumer needs to be protected. Motorists should be confident that their cars will be serviced to the highest quality standards and that the bill will not break the bank. Unfortunately, there are too many corrupt practices in too many garages. We hope this investigation will help to outlaw the disreputable dealers."
The OFT has already conducted an in-depth investigation of the supermarket industry and is looking at why cars cost much more in the UK than they do in Continental Europe.
The government signalled recently that it planned to beef up the powers of the OFT as part of a drive to stamp out monopolies and improve competition to ensure that customers do not get a raw deal.
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