The motor industry is currently filled with news about Block Exemption Regulation (BER) – but what is it and how does it affect motorists and their vehicles? Find out with the Trust My Garage blog!
What is Block Exemption Regulation (BER)?
The Block Exemption Regulation is an exemption in the automotive industry which excludes some companies from certain business activities in order to create competition. This means that in the past, main dealer networks were allowed to control who could sell and repair their cars and have access to technical repair information.
It is especially relevant with many modern cars, as before changes to the BER in 2002 motorists risked invalidating their main dealership vehicle warranty by using independent garages for servicing new vehicles.
This barrier was broken when the European Commission (EC) passed a law allowing vehicle owners the freedom of having their servicing and repairs carried out by their chosen independent garage. The law aimed to protect the consumer by providing them with freedom of choice when it comes to having their vehicle serviced and to provide fair competition within the automotive aftermarket.
It is still a common misconception that using a garage outside of a main dealer network will invalidate a vehicle’s warranty, but this is NOT the case – owners can take their vehicle to any garage they choose, provided that the garage follows the manufacturer’s servicing schedule, utilises manufacturer or matching quality parts, and uses the correct oils and fluids. If the garage follows their procedures correctly, a vehicle’s warranty will not be invalidated.
How can BER affect motorists?
The European Regulations were renewed in 2010, meaning owners still have the freedom to choose where they take their vehicle for service and maintenance during the vehicle’s warranty period. This means an independent repairer can service your vehicle while leaving the warranty intact.
Motorists should still stick to the recommended service schedules as outlined in the vehicle service plan and have your repairer of choice fit parts of Original Equipment (OE) quality standard. You should also keep any maintenance and repair records as proof that you have met all requirements.
Will independent garages be able to access the same technical data as dealerships?
Thanks to BER, independent Garages can usually access technical information, or Digital Service Records, through online manufacturer portals. They have the right to access this information, so should not encounter any issues while conducting servicing and repairs.
Which garage should I choose for servicing and repair?
Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service. With over 2,900 members across the UK, you’re never far away from a Trust My Garage member!
To find out more about why you should Trust My Garage you can also check out our new TV advert below:
We’ve even created a handy search function so you can locate your nearest TMG-approved garage with ease. Try it out here:
Since 2016 Trust My Garage members have all operated to a strict Code of Conduct, which has been approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) – the national body for trading standards professionals. Trust My Garage is currently the only CTSI backed code exclusively for independent garages, so you can rest assured that you are dealing with a firm that is determined to deliver the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
Perhaps the most telling sign of our recovering economy is that 2013 saw the highest number of new car registrations since 2007, before the world was plunged into the doom and gloom of the global recession.
Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers show that 2,264,737 new cars were registered in 2013, and December marked 22 months of consecutive growth, a statistic that’s unparalleled across Europe and makes the UK the second strongest automotive manufacturer, behind perennial manufacturing powerhouse Germany.
Motorists lucky enough to own a new car will want to make the most of the technology at their disposal, and that means receiving the best maintenance at the best price.
Independents vs franchised dealers
It’s a common misconception that having your new car serviced at an independent garage will void your warranty, and that you must go to a franchised dealer. This is absolutely not the case, and in fact under European Law, the Block Exemption Regulations give you the right to have your vehicle serviced, maintained and repaired at an independent garage of your choice, without invalidating your warranty. This is as long as the independent garage services the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s schedule using parts which are of “equivalent quality”, which all Trust My Garage members comply with.
So, what are the benefits of having your new car looked after by an independent garage? Well, the most obvious one is the cost saving you’ll enjoy. New cars don’t come cheap and it’s likely you’ll have invested a serious amount of money into yours, so why needlessly waste money going to a main dealer? The Independent Garage Association recently polled 2,000 of its members and the statistics are quite startling. The poll showed that the average labour cost is just over £40 for independent garages, whereas the same rate for main dealers is currently much higher.
It’s only natural to assume that the cost saving will mean a sacrifice in quality, right? Wrong! Members of Trust My Garage have access to the same level of technical information and parts as main dealers, and train their staff to the same levels too. There is no compromise on the quality of work you’ll receive at an independent garage, meaning you’ll receive both great service and fantastic value.
It’s also worth pointing out that you’ll have a far more positive experience at an independent garage, which are often family fun businesses, because they rely on your continued custom, and will go that extra mile to ensure you keep going back. Main dealers don’t rely so much on retained customers, and more often than not you’re just another statistic. Technicians at independent garages are well and truly part of the local community, they’ll shop at the same grocers at you and take their kids to the same school as yours. By choosing an independent garage you’re reinvesting money back into your local community, which can only be a good thing!
Don’t fall for the myth that states you need to have your vehicle serviced at a main dealer. By going to a local trusted independent garage you’ll not only receive a level of service that is at the very least is on a par, but you’ll also save yourself a lot of money at the same time, money that can go towards your next new car!
Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.
As Britain’s leading independent garage scheme with almost 2000 members, we pride ourselves on looking after our garage’s customers. This is why we have our Customer Charter, which shows our commitment in providing the best possible care to those who pay for a service, MOT or repair at any of our garages.
Unfortunately, some franchised dealers and other independent garages don’t have the same idea. Let’s take MOT tests as an example.
‘The MOT test checks that your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards. It isn’t the same as having your vehicle serviced and doesn’t check its general mechanical condition.’
This statement is taken from the government’s own website, and it appears to give a perfectly clear and straightforward message for motorists. Unfortunately, the way we treat the MOT test, both in the motor trade and as private motorists, allows commercial considerations to get in the way of safety.
What this often means is the cheapest MOT test is not necessarily the best. This point should be immediately clear to even the most cost-sensitive motorist. The tests can only be conducted by a trained and qualified individual; he or she will require sophisticated, expensive and regularly calibrated equipment and the test should take around 45 minutes to complete.
Garages charging around £20 for an MOT test – or even less in some cases – are not charities. The result is that the overall bill may be significantly higher than expected as the garage seeks to cover the cost of providing the MOT test at an unrealistic and headline-grabbing price.
And the financial pressure on motorists today means that they are not entirely innocent when it comes to their MOT test, either.
Many motorists today use the MOT as an alternative to regular maintenance and submit a car for testing to “see what it fails on” rather than presenting a properly maintained and safe car in expectation that it will pass. This means that they only deal with the failures rather than ensuring that the entire car is safe and reliable.
As an MOT test is a measure of the minimum mechanical standard of a vehicle at that time, this means cars that are between tests may be in a particularly poor state of repair – or even dangerous.
So, a lot of garages respond to this by offering a “no re-test fee” for failures and the cycle continues.
Franchised dealers, with their high labour rates, have often been known to treat the MOT as a loss-leader to retain customers with older vehicles. They also try to give the impression that their MOT test is somehow superior to ones carried out by an independent garage.
Well, this tactic is clearly not working as more than 80 per cent of MOTs are carried out in independent garages.
The UK has one of the best road-worthiness test regimes in Europe, which is reflected in the high levels of road safety compared to some of our European neighbours. But we, at Trust My Garage, are worried that the downward cost spiral for the MOT test in our ever competitive world means that this situation may not last.
So, where does all that leave you, the motorist?
The obvious answer is to place your faith in Trust My Garage. Even if the price is discounted, a motorist can take comfort in the knowledge that any one of our garages will do a proper job – and charge fairly for only those parts that need to be replaced.
In the longer term, the answer is a fixed, or minimum, price for MOTs and a mandatory re-test fee. After all, fair pricing for MOT tests is not only better for motorists, but for garages too. And it will be great news for other road users because more cars will be safer if the industry overall cleans up its act.
The Independent Garage Association will continue to lobby and campaign for the government to enforce this. It is one of the roles of Trust My Garage to educate people to the reasons behind this stance.
Do you want to know where your nearest Trust My Garage is for an honest and professional MOT? Just type your postcode into our garage finder to find your nearest member.