When it comes to determining the true level of service provided by a company, there is a lot to be said for carrying out a “Secret Shopper” test. If a company knows that they are being tested or evaluated, they will provide the highest standard of service. There is no guarantee that this is the level of service that the average consumer will receive, so it is important that the firm is evaluated in a fair manner.
This is definitely the case when it comes to car servicing and it seems as though Halfords has fallen foul of such a test. The Trading Standards team from South Gloucestershire Council sent a Vauxhall Astra to a Halfords Centre in Filton in Bristol. The car was fitted with a number of faults that were sufficient enough to see the car fail a MOT and to make it illegal to drive on the road. Some of the issues included oil leaks, irregular tyre pressure, missing or broken light bulbs and windscreen wipers that were not operating properly.
These faults were missed and the company also failed to check or replenish brake fluid and they did not examine the power steering reservoir. There had been a number of complaints about services in Bristol and this is part of an on-going review by the local Trading Standards.
Service centres need to provide a consistent level of service
Lee Reynolds represented the council at North Avon Magistrates Court and he said; “It became obvious that not all the checks were done. Things were ticked as having been done that had not been and the consumer was not made aware. “This is a national company. A consumer puts a lot of trust and faith in a national firm to do a proper job to ensure a car service is conducted thoroughly and professionally and in these circumstances it was not.”
Halfords pleaded guilty to 8 separate counts of breaching consumer protection laws. Alex Tovey had carried out the vehicle service in March of 2014 and it transpired that he had resigned from the company less than a week after the Astra received its service. The branch manager at the time, Kevin Pickford, had been brought in to help turn around the centre which had been suffering from a number of poor performances, has since moved on to another branch.
In court, Allan Fuller defended Halfords and he stated; “These issues cannot be a case of the vehicle being overtly dangerous – the council would not have sent one of their employees out (in it) if that were the case. It was not a dangerous vehicle let out back on the road.” It was also pointed out in court that Mr Tovey has uncovered two faults that the engineer from the council had not uncovered.
The company was fined a total of £32,000 while they were also ordered to pay £14,862.04 in costs and pay a £120 victim surcharge.
Halfords released a statement indicating that improvements have been carried out at the garage and that they are looking to ensure that it was a one-off incident. The statement read; “We are deeply disappointed that in this case we did not meet the very high recruitment and training standards we set ourselves. We immediately launched an internal investigation and are confident that this is an isolated case.”