Is our industry trustworthy?

One of the gripes I hear in our industry is that there are too many MOT testers out there who are trying to fail cars in order to make money off the repair bills. The theory being that there are garages offering discounted MOT’s to draw customers in who then find themselves lumbered with hefty repair bills when their car inevitably fails.

Personally I had never really paid that much attention to these claims, after all surely these were just comments from those who were jealous of their larger competitors with bigger budgets who could afford to do this.

Small garages just cannot afford to offer heavily discounted MOT’s. An MOT takes a tester approximately an hour and the costs involved are not insignificant. An MOT station has equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds, and a lot of it seems to need replacing far more often than you would expect. Once you factor in property costs, business rates and wages there is not a lot of profit to be made from full priced MOT’s let alone discounted ones. Therefore those garages that are discounting MOT’s are essentially using them as loss leaders, but ultimately that’s capitalism in action and like it or loath it, it is the world we live in and they are entitled to do it.

However whilst surfing the internet earlier this week I came across and article on The Sunday Post. Published in February this year it claims that half of MOT failures could be wrong. Over the past five years half of the appeals to VOSA regarding failed MOT’s have been overturned. Reading on it is clear that in reality very few people actually appeal their MOT failure, but then again how many are aware that they can?

Is this symbol the emblem for excellence that is should be?

Is this symbol the emblem for excellence that is should be?

The question is are these failures due to incompetence or corruption? Neither is good but something needs to be done to increase the public confidence in our industry. A quick Google search reveals there are lots of people out there have no trust in our industry, suggesting again that it is maybe corruption rather than incompetence.

One solution is more monitoring of garages, such as the conducting of mystery shopper exercises. A bit more Googling has revealed some shocking statistics, see this freedom of information request from 2009. In 2008 VOSA carried out 250 mystery shopper checks, only 30% were found to be satisfactory, 29.6% had minor discrepancies whilst a staggering 40.4% were unsatisfactory. Apparently there are other paper records as well suggesting more non digitised mystery shopper activities may have been conducted.

The real question is what happened to these 70% of garages that did not meet the satisfactory standard? The document unfortunately does not provide any information regarding this. I suspect however that the 40% deemed unsatisfactory were not closed down, although I have no evidence to support this. It is also unclear whether these mystery shopper exercises are conducted at random or whether there were already concerns regarding these garages. There are around 20,000 MOT stations in the UK, 14,000 of these cannot be below satisfactory standard can they?

In truth I suspect that things are not as bad as either of these two sources suggest, but nonetheless it is you dear reader who can help. The consumer thanks to the internet has more power than at any other time in history. Many garages now have Twitter profiles, whilst sites such as Yell and Google+ allow you to leave reviews for businesses even if they have no online presence. These things have a huge impact on a business, if I’m searching for a garage and Google reveals that one has multiple five star reviews and one has largely negative reviews guess which one I am going to choose? And don’t forget if you think your car has been wrongly failed you can always appeal, and apparently you have a 50% chance it will be overturned.

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