21 Jun 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Standing up for fair play for garages and consumers

Cost of living pressures are a likely key driver in the record number of service and repair cases referred to The Motor Ombudsman’s alternative dispute resolution service in a single quarter, Aftermarket online reported last month.

Here, in this exclusive follow-up article for Aftermarket, TMO chief ombudsman and MD, Bill Fennell (pictured), looks at the issue from the perspective of garage owners…

Receiving a complaint, especially for the first time, can be unsettling, even for the most conscientious of businesses that continually strive to go the extra mile to deliver the very highest level of work and service to customers.

However, knowing how best to deal with a complaint swiftly, fairly, and effectively, is a key step to helping garages preserve a positive long-term relationship with consumers.

One of the underlying fundamentals of bringing a dispute to a swift and fair conclusion, is communication with the customer.

On this note, it is always best to look to resolve any disputes directly in the first instance, rather than involving any third parties at this stage.

Suitable outcome

Encouraging and maintaining open and calm dialogue is crucial to getting a clear understanding of the problems reported, and the key reasons driving the customer’s dissatisfaction.

This could span a repair not fixing an issue, or another fault developing from the replacement of a component, for example.

It is from spending time addressing these concerns from the outset, which then opens the gateway to working together to find a mutually agreeable solution that works for everyone.

Depending on the extent of the problem that has arisen, a suitable outcome could be as simple as offering an apology. Remedies are not necessarily an award that have a monetary value attached to them.


Despite the best efforts of a business to resolve the complaint to a consumer’s full satisfaction, stalemate may be reached, where solutions offered are not viable in the eyes of the customer.

This is where Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) comes into play, as businesses are legally required to signpost a customer to an ADR provider.

One major advantage of accreditation to The Motor Ombudsman’s Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair is that, in the event of deadlock, garages are able to refer customers to The Motor Ombudsman’s in-house and automotive-specific, dispute resolution service for help bringing a complaint to a close from a fair, independent, and impartial perspective.

This avoids having to resort to often costly and time-consuming legal recourse as the next port of call, giving a business and a consumer the best opportunity to move forwards based on a completely un-biased outcome that has been derived from evidence provided by both parties.