Halfords Autocentre in Stratford fined £28,000 for poor car service

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WARWICKSHIRE County Council’s trading standards service successfully prosecuted the company following an undercover test purchase and investigation. 
The car service, carried out by Halfords Autocentre, located on Birmingham Road, Stratford cost £210, but garage staff failed to rectify or report 11 separate faults on the 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 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. 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 Friday 15th March 2019, 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, (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 we can have confidence 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.

William Hibbert, representing Halfords company stated that nationally, Halfords serviced 22,000 cars a month and relied upon their technicians and that sometimes they ‘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.

A Halfords Autocentres spokesman said: “We are deeply sorry that in this incident occurring over two years ago at our Stratford-upon-Avon branch, our usual high standards fell short. As soon as Trading Standards brought the case to our attention, we launched our own internal investigation and have put robust measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  We asked the Retail Motor Industry Federation to carry out an independent review of our quality control procedures and it found our policies were at a robust level when compared to the market. We have also put a third party mystery shopping service in place to help ensure quality. We will continue to improve our quality checking processes and invest in training our technicians, so we can deliver the high standards of service our customers deserve. We welcome the District Judges comments that we are a ‘company that puts quality at the heart of its business’, this is really important to us and we will continue to invest in our processes.”