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Press releases 2002 -

VBRA code in pole position - on the road to OFT approval

PN 69b/02     28 October 2002

The Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association Ltd has passed its first milestone towards OFT approval for its new consumer code of practice.

The trade body has successfully completed stage one of the two-stage process for OFT approval. This means that the code of practice in principle meets the core criteria set out by the OFT. The next stage will involve the VBRA demonstrating that the promises made at stage one have been delivered in practice.

The VBRA code of practice promises:

  • a disciplinary committee to deal with members who do not deliver the promises in the code
  • a conciliation service to handle consumer complaints if a member's own complaints procedure does not resolve an issue
  • an low cost arbitration process to handle unresolved consumer disputes following conciliation
  • estimates and/or quotations available to all customers with an explanation of the difference between the two
  • advice offered on procedures following accident damage
  • customer satisfaction cards.

The VBRA must now prove that the code is working before receiving approval. The OFT will assess the VBRA's performance in monitoring various aspects of the new code's effectiveness.

Codes that achieve approval will carry an OFT logo and receive official promotion. Only codes that are shown to safeguard and promote consumers' interests will be approved.

Acknowledging the VBRA's work towards stage one, Penny Boys, Deputy Director General of Fair Trading, said:

'I warmly welcome the steps taken by the VBRA. The new code approval scheme will raise standards of customer service and I hope more industry bodies will follow suit. I look forward to working with them to ensure we can give them full approval at stage two.'


1. The VBRA is a non-profit making trade association covering vehicle body repairers.

2. The VBRA submitted its code on 11 September 2001 for assessment under the OFT's new approach to approving and promoting business-to-consumer codes of practice.

3. The OFT has set out new core criteria for codes to ensure they are effective in promoting and safeguarding consumer interests. The criteria cover the organisation of the code sponsor, the preparation and content of the code, complaints handling procedures, monitoring, compliance and publicity.

4. The new regime consists of two co-dependent stages:
Stage one - the code sponsor makes a promise that its code meets the OFT's core criteria in principle. The sponsor must make sure its code contains measures designed to remove or ease consumer concerns and undesirable trading practices in its sector.

Stage two - the code sponsor must prove its code lives up to the initial promise. The burden of proof lies with the sponsor. The sponsor must show that the code is being effectively implemented by members that claim to adhere to it and that consumer disputes are properly resolved.

Only when a code sponsor has passed both stages and an evaluation of how effective the code is working has been made will the code receive OFT approval.

5. The OFT set out its criteria for the selection of priority sectors for the new code approval scheme in February 2001 with the consultation paper The OFT's new approach to codes of practice. Seven sectors were listed - used cars, car repair and servicing, credit, funerals, travel, estate agents and direct marketing. Code sponsors were invited to submit their codes for assessment.

6. The Enterprise Bill, scheduled for Royal Assent in November 2002, will broaden the OFT's role in promoting self-regulation through codes of practice.

7. In this press release the functions of the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) are for simplicity described as the functions of 'the OFT'. The Enterprise Bill proposes to replace the office of the DGFT with the OFT, to which would be transferred the DGFT's functions.

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