HALFORDS has been told to pay nearly £40,000 after an Autocentre failed to rectify or report 11 faults on a Volkswagen Passat – with the company admitting that its technicians sometimes ‘cut corners’.
Warwickshire County Council’s trading standards department launched a successful prosecution after an undercover test purchase and investigation into the workshop in Birmingham Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, pictured. The service cost £210, but garage staff failed to rectify or report 11 separate faults on the Passat, including leaking front shock absorbers, a split drive shaft gaiter, an insecure battery and excessive play on the anti-roll bar.
Staff also failed to notice a split wiper blade, didn’t top up the brake fluid level from the minimum or increase the spare tyre pressure to the recommended level.
The vehicle was supposed to have been taken for a test drive as well. However, the mileage indicator showed that it hadn’t been driven anywhere. The service was signed off by a quality controller at the branch, despite some faults not being noticed and others that had been spotted by the technician not being notified to the customer or rectified.
Halfords Autocentres Ltd was fined £28,000 at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court and ordered to pay costs of £11,700.97 plus a victim surcharge of £170 – making a total of £39,870.97 – on March 15, after the Stratford-upon-Avon branch pleaded guilty on January 14 to one offence of unfair trading.
In court, barrister William Hibbert, appearing for Halfords, said its Autocentres serviced 22,000 cars a month nationally and relied upon its technicians, and that sometimes they ‘cut corners’.
He said the company accepted that it could have done better and its systems failed, but in mitigation maintained that Halfords had co-operated with the investigation and took its legal responsibilities very seriously.
After the case, county councillor Andy Crump, portfolio holder for community safety, said: ‘Most of us are not vehicle experts and haven’t got the expertise to know if a car service has been carried out properly or not. We rely on garages to carry out services correctly so that we can have confidence that our vehicles are properly maintained and consequently safe to drive.
‘I’m delighted that Warwickshire trading standards is carrying out this important work to protect road users.’
The department regularly carries out undercover car servicing enforcement exercises. An expert vehicle examiner places faults on cars before they’re submitted for services at garages across the county. Afterwards, the expert then examines the vehicles to see if the garages have carried out the services to an acceptable standard.
Picture: Google Street View
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