During an undercover test purchase and investigation by Warwickshire trading standards, garage staff at Halfords Autocentre in Stratford upon Avon failed to rectify or report 11 separate faults on a Volkswagen Passat, including: leaking front shock absorbers; a spilt drive shaft gaiter; an insecure battery and excessive play on the anti-roll bar.
Staff also failed notice a split wiper blade, failed to top up the brake fluid level from the minimum and neglected to increase the spare tyre pressure to the recommended level. In court, Halfords’ barrister stated that technicians sometimes ‘cut corners’.
The vehicle was also supposed to have been taken for a test drive, however the mileage indicator showed it hadn’t been driven anywhere. The service was signed off by a quality controller at the branch, despite some faults not being spotted and others which had been spotted by the technician not being notified to the customer or rectified.
At Birmingham Magistrates Court on March 15, Halfords was handed a £28,000 fine, and ordered to pay costs of £11,700.97 and a victim surcharge of £170. Halfords had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
Warwickshire 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.”
Warwickshire trading standards regularly carries out undercover car servicing enforcement exercises. An expert vehicle examiner places faults on cars before they are submitted for services at garages across Warwickshire. On completion, the vehicle expert then examines the vehicles to see if the garages have carried out the services to an acceptable standard.
Halfords’ barrister stated that nationally, Halfords services 22,000 cars a month and sometimes its technicians cut corners. He said that the company accepted it could have done better and its systems failed, but in mitigation maintained that Halfords had cooperated with the investigation and took its legal responsibilities very seriously.