Secret shoppers to scrutinise Norfolk's garages

A secret shopper investigation has been launched in Norfolk to see if local car garages are doing a good enough job when servicing drivers’ cars.

Watchdogs from Trading Standards will have the cars, with a number of known faults, taken in for servicing and then re-examined afterwards by an independent engineer to assess whether the problems have been properly resolved. Firms that are found to have done an inadequate job have been warned by Trading Standards that they could find themselves prosecuted.

With the best will in the world, sometimes mistakes are made. In such instances, ensuring appropriate motor trade insurance is in place – particularly against defective workmanship or product liability – can help motor traders to defend any claims against them, where they can prove that standards have not been met due to genuine errors rather than negligence. This type of insurance can be just as important as the motor trade insurance that covers the vehicles, tools and staff on site.

The Eastern Daily Press reported yesterday (20 March) that the cars submitted to the county's garages would carry a range of faults – ranging from some that only require mechanics to make the owner aware of the problem, to others that render the car unsafe if they are not addressed. The mystery shopper investigation will also explore whether drivers are having to pay for unnecessary work or parts in the bill for their service.

Jon Peddle, of Norfolk County Council, who leads the Trading Standards team carrying out the survey, said: “Cars are far and away the most complained-about consumer issue, but it’s difficult for us to properly follow up complaints about servicing and repairs on cars because we can never be sure what condition they were in when they were taken to a garage.

“This campaign is designed to put the garages we’ve targeted through their paces. It will show us if they’ve carried out their work with reasonable care and skill and if it’s been done in a way that was described and agreed to by their customers.”