Unclear diagnostics fees

The consumer’s issue:

“I contacted my nearest dealership after my nine-year-old MPV developed a water leak in the driver’s side footwell. I explained that this was similar to the leak that had occurred previously on the passenger side due to faulty scuttle drains. I was told that the dealership would carry out tests and diagnose the cause of the fault for a £69.95 fee, which I reluctantly agreed to.

They then contacted me and said that they’d test the scuttle drains, which they subsequently found were operating correctly, so they suspected a leak from my air conditioning condenser. They asked me to authorise further diagnostics at my cost to carry out additional investigations. I explained that I was told the cause of the leak would be diagnosed for the fee quoted and asked them to continue to work out the cause of the leak for the fee that was originally agreed.

However, the dealership said that it only covered the first hour of diagnostic investigations, and any further work would be subject to their hourly diagnostics rate. As I did not trust the dealership anymore, I paid the agreed fee and took my car to an alternate repairer, who identified the fault for £50. As the dealership did not diagnose the problem, I do not believe I was provided with the service I paid for. I therefore want them to refund the £50 I had to pay to the third party to have this done.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We do not agree that we should refund the £69.95 diagnostics fee, as we made it clear on several occasions that this charge was to cover the first hour of investigations only.
  • As we were unable to identify the cause of the leak within that time, we contacted the consumer to ask them to authorise additional time, but they declined.
  • We do not think it is reasonable to have to cover the costs of the diagnostics at another repairer.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator reviewed the correspondence exchanged between the business and the consumer prior to the investigation works being carried out and noted that, while the £69.95 diagnostics fee was mentioned several times, at no time was it made clear to the consumer that this cost was for one hour of diagnostics only.
  • Therefore, while the adjudicator didn’t think the dealership had done anything wrong or unusual when it asked the consumer to authorise further diagnostic investigations at their cost, he did think the business had failed to comply with its obligation under the Service and Repair Code, namely “to confirm and agree its charges for this work before it begins”.
  • As the dealership’s correspondence with the consumer suggested the £69.95 would cover the identification of the cause of the leak irrespective of the time it took to do so, the adjudicator was satisfied the consumer was entitled to believe they did not receive the service they had paid for.
  • The adjudicator therefore said the complaint should succeed, and that the consumer should receive the £50 refund she was looking for.


  • Both parties agreed with the adjudication outcome, and the dealership agreed to pay the consumer £50 as awarded by the adjudicator, thereby closing the case.