12 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Call for crackdown on illicit hand car wash sites

Legally operated car wash operations risk being drowned out by illegal hand car washes that should face a licensing crackdown, according to a warning from the Car Wash Association.

The CWA said yesterday that most recent Home Office figures show hand car washes racked up a total of almost £2.5 million in fines for ‘right to work’ offences last year.

CWA executive director Gordon Balmer said a national licensing scheme must be part of any new government strategy to address employment law violations — and urged incoming ministers to make this a top priority in their legislative agenda.

“Non-compliant hand car washes, that vastly outnumber legally operated sites, are blatantly disregarding employment laws, with minimal enforcement from the relevant authorities,” Balmer said.

“When employment laws are ignored, people suffer. These hand car washes, many of which only accept payment in cash, are often a hotbed of modern slavery and other illegal activities, such as money laundering and tax evasion.”

Balmer said the latest Home Office figures were contained in an illegal working civil penalties report, released on May 30, covering the period of October to December 31 last year.

Previous data from the Illegal Immigration Unit at the Home Office showed that 78 hand car washes across the UK had been fined a total of nearly £1.5 million for right to work offences in the first nine months of 2023.

The CWA and Nottingham Trent University are already working to establish a framework for a national licensing scheme and Balmer has urged legislators to work with the association to support victims and bring offenders to justice.

The CWA was established in 2007 by wash operators and industry suppliers and is now part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation.