The number of complaints made by customers to car dealers have practically ‘quadrupled’ according to legal specialists CG Professional.
Speaking on Car Dealer Live, founder and managing partner Stacey Turner said she is currently seeing a deluge of customer complaints and employee issues – and the number of disputes have only grown with every national lockdown.
‘We’re seeing from our clients a lot of dispute and they’re issues right across the board,’ she explained (in the video which you can watch at the top of this story), ‘whether that be from customers raising issues and claims, litigation of ombudsman complaints, right through to to employee issues, which are significantly increasing.’
Turner said the increased levels of disputes is a ‘sign of the times’.
‘We saw it back in 2008 and 2009 and in times of economic trouble you just see a rise in litigation. Whether that’s because people are desperate or have more time on their hands because they’re perhaps furloughed and at home and are becoming keyboard warriors and enjoying the process of raising lots of incessant complaints, I’m not sure.
‘Litigation, the court system and tribunal system have seen huge spikes.’
The number of complaints and issues have risen with every successive lockdown too, said Turner, with increasing levels of animosity between parties.
‘In March and April 2020, I think in society there was just more of a collective feeling of “we’re all in it together”. The furlough scheme was seen as really positive, the government was being shown in a better light and the feeling was generally calmer.
‘As time has gone on, however, we started to see in November with the second lockdown a feeling of animosity – and it’s getting worse.
‘I think it will remain for a little while even when lockdown is lifted, because these issues don’t go away overnight. Hopefully it will level out and settle down towards the end of this year.’
Little issues becoming big problems
Turner explained how she has seen a huge rise in the number of complaints from customers, often ‘ridiculous’ issues which wouldn’t be arise in more normal times.
‘The number of customer complaints and issues I’m dealing with is probably quadrupled, and an issues which would normally go away quite quickly are just not,’ she said.
‘We’e seeing ridiculous issues – issues like customers that have maybe bought a vehicle two or three years ago where they’re now trying to reject it, or they’re looking to make claims under the FCA, threatening the Ombudsman and court action – it’s unbelievable.’
Turner said many dealers can ‘nip issues in the bud’ and prevent them from progressing further by making sure they have practices in place.
‘I’ve been advising clients to review their terms and conditions and making sure they’re strong, and a key factor is making sure dealers’ teams are educated.
‘Your team are the ones that are dealing with these customer issues in the first instance, and sometimes it can be nipped in the bud straight away. And also if you educate your sales executives and your service advisors, hopefully we can avoid some of the issues that we’re finding ourselves in.’
Turner warned one trend she seen a lot of its phishing scams.
‘We’ve seen the back of PPI but I’m seeing a practice arising of claims handling firms going on phishing expeditions with letters to dealers saying “you’re in breach of this” and “you’re in breach that” when in fact they’re not. It’s just a source of opportunity.’
Another trend Turner and her team have seen is claims firms suggesting a deal that may have been completed two or three years ago is now breach of ‘new rules’ when in fact they’re not.
‘Just take some legal advice – if you get one of those letters, don’t knee jerk react and respond.’
Other issues discussed in the video interview were test drives and car viewings with Turner urging dealers not to relax and break the law, employee disputes regarding the furlough scheme, and more. Click the video at the top of this story to watch the full interview.