The Motor Ombudsman is the impartial dispute resolution body focussed on the automotive sector.

In continuing to spearhead our support for the sector, Shoosmiths worked with Motor Ombudsman to help it to achieve Ombudsman Status.

What is the Motor Ombudsman?

The Motor Ombudsman self regulates the automotive sector through the following codes of practice which are approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme:

  • The Vehicle Sales Code
  • The Vehicle Warranty Products Code
  • The New Car Code
  • The Service and Repair Code

In order to drive up standards of work and service resulting in peace of mind and protection to consumers, nearly 8,000 businesses are accredited to one or more of the codes. These include franchised dealerships, independent garages, warranty product providers and vehicle manufacturers.

Resolving disputes

When something goes wrong between an automotive sector business and a consumer, provided that business is accredited, the matter can be referred to the Motor Ombudsman. The service is free and gives both parties the opportunity to resolve a dispute without becoming engaged in expensive protracted court proceedings.

The business has eight weeks to respond to a consumer complaint. After the eight week period has elapsed, consumers can complain to the Motor Ombudsman if they are unhappy with the response or if they haven't received a reply at all. If consumers wish to refer the matter to the Ombudsman, they must do so within six months from the date of the final response from the business.

Legally trained adjudicators will investigate the complaint, giving both parties the opportunity to give their version of events

What is the significance?

The establishment of a Motor Ombudsman means that the automotive sector has its own way of resolving disputes and complaints with consumers. Since the Motor Ombudsman is the subsidiary of Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders 99% of new car sales are covered.

In October 2015 Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) regulations came into force. These regulations require traders to provide information on the availability of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and advise consumers on the ADR body relevant to the sector and the nature of the specific complaint. Although traders are required by law to provide this information, they are not obliged to engage in the ADR process except where they operate in a sector which is mandated by statute or by membership of a trade association to use ADR. Although the use of ADR is not mandatory to traders, it was hoped that the potential benefits in getting and keeping custom through good customer relations will encourage traders to do so. Typically the option to use ADR begins when the consumer has exhausted the trader's internal complaints process and they have been unable to resolve the dispute satisfactorily.

Following the introduction of the Regulations, a raft of ADR providers emerged offering their services. The advantage for the Motor Ombudsman is that having Ombudsman status (rather than merely being another generic ADR provider) gives the Motor Ombudsman unique status within the automotive sector. Its resulting expertise should give accredited businesses and consumer confidence that the right result is achieved based on experience and knowledge of the sector.

What does this mean for businesses within the automotive sector?

If they have not already done so and they wish to take advantage of the services offered by the Motor Ombudsman, businesses should;

  • familiarise themselves with the Motor Ombudsman
  • seek accreditation (it could be seen as an advantage by consumers and boost consumer confidence in their dealings with the business knowing they have an extra avenue of redress)
  • deal proactively with complaints raised by consumers and reply to the consumer within eight weeks of the complaint being made
  • if the Motor Ombudsman becomes involved, cooperate fully with the ADR process