Currently, European legislation clearly states that any garage business has the right to access all manufacturer technical and security information for an equal price through an equal process. Therefore the consumer now has the choice to take their car to a garage of their choice. If the car is still within its warranty period, as long as recognised quality parts are fitted and manufacturer service procedures followed, there is no detrimental impact to the manufacturer’s warranty. This block exemption regulation provides the consumer with the “right to choose”.
Recent press articles have implied that a spate of car thefts where the criminals connect a device to the vehicle’s diagnostic system, and then reprogramme a blank key to start the car is partly due to EU Block Exemption rules that allow independent garages access to this information to service vehicles.
The suggestion that independent garages having access to vehicle manufacturer security information is the cause of a rise in car crime is entirely false and unfounded. In reality, this type of information is extremely difficult for independent garages to access.
Many independent garages are small businesses that are set up by extremely competent technicians who branch out and set up their own businesses, often driven by demand for their services. There are many reputable independent garages that are members of trade bodies such as the IGA. These bodies provide support to these people in areas such as legal, HR, marketing and projecting the image of their business in a professional and consumer-focused way.
It is important that consumers have the ability to have their vehicle serviced and repaired at a garage of their choice without fear of affecting the warranty.
Since March 2010, all garages should have full access to manufacturer security information. However, almost none of the manufacturer websites are fully functional for independent garages. The IGA has submitted a report to the European Commission and discussed the facts with UK ministers regarding this issue.
While the independent garage industry is trying hard to rectify the situation in terms of diagnostic services, the security elements of the manufacturer’s information will only be accessible following a rigorous integrity check of the garage owner and the technician repairing the vehicle. This will provide protection to the consumer and the business. Currently, the IGA’s parent body, the Retail Motor Industry Federation, is in the process of setting up a business which will be the first awarding body in the UK for accessing this information.
However, with progress slow and many obstacles in the way, the real people suffering are the consumers.
l Stuart James is director of the Independent Garage Association.
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