TMO’s guide to dispute and garage terminology

From ADR, to DVLA, to MOT, the automotive industry can sometimes prove to be a minefield in terms of understanding all the blurb and terminology when a dispute arises, or when visiting a garage. The Motor Ombudsman has therefore put together this useful reference guide to help explain the definition of some of the most frequently-used motoring terms.

ACCREDITED BUSINESS – is a vehicle manufacturer, vehicle warranty provider, garage or dealership that is signed up to one or more of The Motor Ombudsman’s Motor Industry Codes of Practice. They pay an annual fee, and are subject to a rigorous assessment process before being accredited. The existing accredited businesses can be found on this website, or by using The Motor Ombudsman’s online Garage Finder.

ADJUDICATION – also known in some organisations as conciliation or mediation, this is a fully impartial service which strives to find a fair resolution to a complaint to avoid the case being escalated to an Ombudsman’s final decision or the courtroom.

ADJUDICATOR – once an accredited business has had a maximum period of eight weeks to try to bring the consumer complaint to a successful conclusion, the job of an adjudicator is to listen to the arguments of both parties to help come to the fairest and quickest resolution based on the facts and any breaches of The Motor Ombudsman’s Codes of Practice.

ADR – stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution. ADR legislation was unveiled by the government to encourage businesses to solve customer complaints by entering the process of mediation, rather than the doors of the courtroom. Businesses can voluntarily sign up to any ADR provider, and must be able to signpost a consumer to one in the event of a dispute. However, they are not obliged to use it.

CASE – a case will be raised by The Motor Ombudsman if the business that a consumer has a dispute with is accredited. However, a dedicated case number will only be issued to a consumer once the trader has been given a sufficient period of time to try to resolve the issue directly with them.

CHIEF OMBUDSMAN – is tasked with overseeing the commercial and financial activities of the organisation, but does not take any active role in the adjudication process or final decisions. This position at The Motor Ombudsman is held by Managing Director, Bill Fennell.

CITIZENS ADVICE OR CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU (CAB)Citizens Advice comprises a network of local Citizens Advice offices, all of which are independent charities. They help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice, and by influencing policymakers. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

CODE OF PRACTICE – is a set of written recommended guidelines that a business commits to so that its own operation and how staff interact with customers are in-line with best practice. Approved by the CTSI, The Motor Ombudsman has Codes of Practice for new cars, vehicle warranties, service and repair, and vehicle sales, thereby covering the entire car buying and ownership experience.

CONSUMER CODES APPROVAL SCHEME (CCAS) – The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) operates a Consumer Code Approval Scheme (CCAS) whereby organisations that offer consumer-facing Codes of Practice can apply to the CTSI for formal approval of their Codes. The Consumer Codes Approval Board (CCAB) examines the Codes against a strict set of criteria to determine whether or not the Codes should be approved.

CONSUMER RIGHTS ACT (CRA) – The CRA entered into force in the UK on 01 October 2015. It consolidated and updated eight existing laws, such as the Sale of Goods Act (1979) and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) and saw significant changes to the rights a consumer holds in terms to repairs and rejection. The CRA applies to contracts and notices between a “trader” and a “consumer” in relation to goods or services purchased.

CTSI – stands for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. It represents Trading Standards professionals working in the UK and overseas – in local authorities, business, consumer sectors and central government. It is tasked with promoting and protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of consumers.

DEKRA EXPERT – provides fully independent inspections of used cars (at the cost and request of a consumer) to assess the roadworthiness, history and condition of a vehicle. Their report can then be provided to an adjudicator to be used as evidence when assessing and coming to a resolution for a case.

DVLA – stands for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. It is based in Swansea and is responsible for issuing vehicle registrations, processing Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and maintaining a database of drivers and vehicles in the UK.

DVSA – stands for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. It sets standards for driving and motorcycling, and ensures that drivers, vehicle operators and MOT garages follow roadworthiness standards. They also provide a range of licensing, testing, education and enforcement services.

EXTENDED WARRANTY – is a prolonged warranty offered to consumers in addition to the standard warranty agreement on new cars. The extended warranty may be offered by the warranty administrator, the retailer or the vehicle manufacturer, and is payable by the consumer.

FINAL DECISION – is only ever issued by the Ombudsman, and is the last stage of an Ombudsman’s involvement in a case if a consumer or accredited business does not accept the outcome of the adjudicator. The final decision is made independently from the adjudicators by looking at all the facts of the case, and is legally-binding if the consumer chooses to accept it. An Ombudsman’s final decision cannot be over-ruled by that of another Ombudsman.

FRANCHISE CAR DEALERSHIP – is a branded sales location that has a contract with one or more vehicle manufacturers that allows them to sell its new and used cars, whilst meeting the prescribed brand standards. They can also be appointed by a vehicle manufacturer to act as an Authorised Repairer.

INDEPENDENT GARAGE – has no affiliation or contract with any vehicle manufacturer, and is free to sell and repair used cars from more than one brand.

MOT – stands for Ministry Of Transport. It’s an annual test of safety, roadworthiness and emissions required for cars and most types of vehicle which are over three years old.

OMBUDSMAN (ORGANISATION) – is an impartial body that considers consumer complaints about a variety of issues relating to organisations in both the private and public sectors. It is tasked with reaching outcomes for both parties which are fair and reasonable as an alternative to going to court.

OMBUDSMAN (INDIVIDUAL) – (male or female) is impartial and does not charge a fee to a consumer. Their role is to look at the facts of a case independently from the adjudicators, after the adjudication outcome has been rejected by either the consumer or accredited business. The Ombudsman will issue a final decision in the favour of either party, which in their view, represents the fairest resolution to the complaint. If the consumer accepts the final decision, it is legally-binding on the accredited business. If they do not, then they are free to take the case to court at their own expense.

RECALL – occurs when a vehicle manufacturer determines that one or several of its models has a safety-related defect. It will often ask affected owners for their car to be taken to one of their authorised repairers for the fault to be rectified free of charge.

Click here to find out if your vehicle has been highlighted by the DVSA’s safety recall scheme.

RIGHT TO REJECT – Under the Consumer Rights Act, consumers have a legal right to reject goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, and get a full refund. This right is limited to 30 days from the date of purchase.

SERVICE – is a series of maintenance procedures carried out at a set time interval or after the vehicle has completed a specified mileage. The full and intermediate car service intervals are typically specified by the vehicle manufacturer in a car service schedule, whilst some cars display the due date for the next service on the instrument panel.

The completed services are usually recorded in a service book which is stamped by the repairer. A service history is often taken into account during the resale value of a vehicle, and is therefore important that motorists keep it up to date.

WARRANTY – A vehicle warranty, or mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI), is an insurance policy that provides protection against the cost of parts and labour following the mechanical or electrical failure of a covered part.

Policies often run from one month to five years, with most 12-month policies renewable annually in the same way that car insurance is. Most brand new cars will come with a three or even seven-year manufacturer’s warranty included in the price.