Over last Saturday’s leisurely breakfast, I was reading the motoring section of the Weekend Telegraph and was intrigued by a column’s headline ‘STEERING YOU THROUGH THE TRIALS OF THE MOT’.
As others before him, the writer likened the annual MOT to visiting the dentist, but did offer sound advice as to what motorists could do to help get their car through the test e.g. check lights, tyres wipers etc.
What he also did was guide the reader through the various places you could get a test done – from franchised dealers to council MOT test stations.
However, there was an inference running through the whole thing that many garages, particularly fast fits cut the price of the MOT, to attract the customer then load the repair bill to recoup costs. Independent garages were also singled out. By the time I had gulped my now cooling bacon I began to get angry – not at the writer, but at the Department for Transports past refusal to deal with what lies at much of the heart of all this, the MOT ‘D’ word …… discounting.
Representing the trade, I have personally presented to two transport minsters the case for fixing the MOT fee, something which the DfT’s own surveys show the vast majority of test station owners want. Even VOSA penalise VTS’s on the risk scores if you cut the price of the test or retest. And, as we all know the proliferation of free retests promotes the mindset that it does not matter if the car fails, just fix them to get it a pass via free retest and go for another year with the minimum of attention.
The proposition to minsters was simple – reduce the existing fee, fix it and the retest fee, plus a modest increase in pad fee to create a sizeable VOSA NT training fund. In essence what this would do would be to create a level playing field for all test stations, where quality of testing was the discriminator rather than price and through increased training, NT errors potentially reduced. The proposal was not to create vast incremental profits for the garage trade – it was meant to deliver safer, more accurately tested vehicles and a better consumer dialogue about the test result.
With both ministers, (aided and abetted by DfT officials) the answer was the same – no! – it’s not in the consumer’s interest. How naive can you get!
As the Telegraph article suggests nothing is for nothing and a low MOT price can mean large bills to recoup the cost, which means a £20 saving will get swallowed up plus. Examples abound. Go on line and look at MOT reviews to see stinging consumer feedback as to what cheap MOT’s deliver. I found with a visit to a major fast fit, they wanted to charge me a retest fee (50% of initial fee) if I took the car away, which is not pointed out in their literature, when I booked it in or on their web site. I have also had customers with older cars complaining of being sucked into franchises with free MOT’s tied in with service plans etc which were not as good they initially appeared to be. Given we are one of only 2 countries in the EU that test & repair, this kind of behaviour plays into the hands of critics of our arrangements in the UK.
The MOT should be cut a drift from all this and be sold for what it is meant to be – a serious annual safety inspection that is delivered as accurately as possible, all at a fixed transparent cost.
Is it now time to try again with minsters and officials – for all the above reasons plus the prospect of a more substantial EU mandated test coming our way in the next 2-3 years?
Oh, and don’t get me started on a lack of MOT fee increase for over two and a half years!