Tag Archive | "MOT"

AN INSIDE JOB

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AN INSIDE JOB


 It can leave a bad taste when an employee commits fraud, but it must be dealt with, writes Adam Bernstein.

It’s bad enough losing out to theft committed by customers and third-party criminals, but it can leave a particularly nasty taste in the mouth when those most trusted – staff – commit criminal acts against the business that employs them.

According to Action Fraud, one in five small businesses will have been defrauded at some point in their trading history – sometimes to the point of bringing the business to its knees.

In March 2010, The Journal reported that a 21-year-old garage – Knights of Newcastle – was put out of business after a trusted employee, Colin Prudham, used the company computer to print off 419 fake MOT test certificates. The fraud only earned Prudham £12,500. In February 2011, a former employee in the accounts department was convicted for stealing over £50,000 from Lanehouse Service Station in Weymouth over a six-year period. The managing director, Peter Amery, described Joyce Britnell’s actions as a “major betrayal.”

And in February 2013, a bookkeeper stole £210,000 from a family business involved in motorcycle publishing run by her friends. Amanda Stevens took the money for, among things, hair and clothes leaving the company – Redcat – to pick up the pieces. The fraud committed over a number of years was only discovered when the VAT couldn’t be paid.

TAKING ACTION
While fraud is an ever-present risk, and a destructive one at that, employers can take preventative measures.

Background
The first step is to proactively check on everyone that is employed by the business, especially where they have access to sensitive systems or the company bank account. Quite simply, firms need to know exactly who they are employing. References should be sought and followed up with calls; the matter shouldn’t be dropped until satisfactory answers are received. Everyone from the cleaner to the members of the board, as well as contractors, should be subject to background checks. At the very minimum, it’s important to confirm an employee’s identity, date of birth, residential address, qualifications, employment history, criminal history and financial background. The process can be undertaken as part of the statutory obligation to ensure that an employee has the legal right to work in the UK.

Another option is to ask for a recent bank or utility statement, as well as details to check on qualifications, or a marriage certificate if a married woman has changed her name. You can also ask for past P45 or P60s, as well as data from Disclosure and Barring Service. Credit agency Experian offer background checks for those in the automotive sector to enable employers to check on, for example, qualifications and experience. At the same time, by signing up with one of the credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax or Callcredit – employers will be able to monitor if employee (or third party) activity has changed the financial status of the business.

Policies
Another large step that a business can take to protect its position is to engender the ethos that fraud is not tolerated within the business. This starts at the top with everyone being able to see that the management plays by the same rules that employees have to follow. Policies and procedures need to be written, but they also need ‘buy-in’ from employees which requires consultation. On joining, every employee should be given, among things, an anti-fraud policy. If a fraud should occur and the employee concerned is dismissed, the event and the consequences should be widely communicated to all staff as a deterrent.

Control access
As harsh as it sounds, firms need to strictly control access to their premises and systems. As soon as an employee leaves the company their access to systems should be terminated immediately. Passwords should be changed, passes revoked and possession should be regained of company laptops and mobiles. (It doesn’t hurt to regularly change passwords held and used by all employees).

Take action
If a faked history or worse, criminality, is suspected, it’s important to take good legal advice with a view to with- drawing any employment offer made (or dismissing the employee). The situation should be reported to the police or, in the case of illegal working, to the UK Border Agency, as well as to the recruitment agency if appropriate. Ignoring the issue will only shuffle the problem to another employer; it could also leave the firm open to claims from future employers who weren’t warned about the ‘rogue’ employee.

Check further
Processes need to be put in place so that no one person has sole control over payment systems, chequebooks or the ability to singly authorise purchases over a given (low) value. Invoices should be checked to ensure that they are from genuine suppliers; unexpected requests to change bank accounts should verified – every time; and suppliers should be informed in writing each time a payment is made.

It’s important to also prevent premium rate and international numbers from being dialled out on company phones. Premium rate fraud – also known as PBX or dial-through fraud) involved out of hours calls being made to particularly expensive numbers. Similarly, phone logs should be regularly checked for increased use or unusual call activity.

Lastly, firms should take steps to destroy any documents with sensitive information that may allow a fraudster to misuse the corporate identity for criminal gain.

For paper, this means acquiring a fine cut cross shredder, while for data, firms should securely wipe computers (physically destroying hard drives and USB sticks) while factory resetting mobile devices. At the same time, time spent signing up on Companies House and other agencies websites seeking out their online protections is worthwhile. Companies House, for example, offers the PROOF scheme in relation to the changing of official corporate details; it helps prevent the hijacking of a company.

Fraud is an unpleasant fact of life. However, those firms that make it harder for employees who are criminally minded will be much better off. By removing the opportunity they’ll remove the temptation.

WHAT TO BE AWARE OF

There are countless different ways that an employee can abuse trust. However, the main forms that firms should be on the watch for are:
Procurement fraud: Fraud relating to company purchases of goods, services or works commissioned. Goods are invoiced but not delivered, or are subject to inflated prices.

Travel and subsistence fraud: Where employees claim for, say, food and mileage not incurred or which is higher than receipts can show.

Personnel management: Staff on sick leave but moonlighting elsewhere, misuse of company equipment and time for private purposes, or the use of false references and qualifications.

Exploitation of assets and information: The passing of internal company information for personal gain.

Payment fraud: The creation of fake accounts and invoices, the redirection of cheques and other payments, or the processing payments to the fraudulent individual.

Receipt fraud: The theft of inbound monies or where records for monies owed are altered.

False accounting: Changing records and accounts to misrepresent their true value, to enhance or alter their appearance, to gain funds from a bank, report overly high profits or to hide losses.

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TESTING TIMES: DVSA REPORT

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TESTING TIMES: DVSA REPORT


The Driving Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published its 2017 annual review, which highlights changes to the MOT testing service and the association’s actions on tackling claims relating to MOT fraud.

According to the report, 511 garages and 483 testers were investigated by the organisation from last year while 45 garages and 111 testers have been stopped testing altogether. A statement from the review said: “With some of these cases there were administrative errors, the more serious cases involved testers who’d issued MOT certificates without actually testing the vehicle. In the most severe cases we took the testers to court, and some received prison sentences”.

In addition, the report outlines 25 new improvements for the MOT testing service with the integration of technical information made readily available for vehicles so testers can carry out the mandatory procedures correctly while being able to identify and remove any defects before retesting.

The agency will continue clamping down on illegal MOT activities within the trade and is in the process of developing an MOT Reminder service for motorists; encouraging them to get their vehicles serviced on time. The statement concluded. “We’re going to look at using new technology to provide streamlined processes for our commercial vehicle testing service. We want to improve our testers’ access to vehicle information at the time of testing, and capture and produce test results digitally. We also aim to improve the service to our customers by simplifying the current payment process, making it easier for them to make payments and view their account in real time”.

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RMI OPENS NEW ACADEMY IN RUNCORN

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RMI OPENS NEW ACADEMY IN RUNCORN


Runcorn academy opens on 3rd July

The Retail Motoring Industry Federation (RMIF) has announced the launch of its MOT training facility in Runcorn, Cheshire.

The new 7,000 sq ft. warehouse follows a similar set-up to the Southam site in Warwickshire, but includes a larger workshop space allowing delegates to carry out MOT Tester training before completing the final test on their work premises. In addition, this is supported by two MOT bays for class four and seven vehicles, a dedicated service ramp and three classrooms catering for industry events and seminar programmes.

Speaking of the launch, Stuart James, Independent Garages Director at the RMI, said. “We decided to open an academy in Runcorn because of the significant number of businesses around the area”. He continued. “Delegates at our latest facility can expect new MOT Tester training for classes four and seven vehicles. We are also doing Level 1 and 2 Motorcycle and a Pre-Mot Testing Level 3 course to support individuals who want to become MOT testers or become eligible to go onto the course”.

The federation will integrate the Independent Garage Association’s training infrastructure, with the inclusion of new courses starting later this year. RMI’s Stuart James provided further insight. “One thing we’re doing in the near future is launching the IGA’s new training regime where we will have a suite of new on-site courses. The newest addition is the ‘Oscilloscope course pilot’, which we have run and will be coming out soon”, adding that the firm’s next course catalogue will be available to the trade next month.

Although there have been discussions of opening an academy in Basingstoke, the team are focusing on getting the Runcorn facility up and running at full capacity before tackling their next project. The site is available to both members and non-members of the RMI.

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MOT CHANGE: IS THE TRADE IN AN ECHO CHAMBER?

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MOT CHANGE: IS THE TRADE IN AN ECHO CHAMBER?


Mixed responses for 4-1-1 proposition

A YouGov poll for SMMT indicated that 76 percent of motorists want to keep the interval for vehicles’ first MOT at three years, rather than increasing it to four as proposed by the government.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “The MOT is an essential check on the safety and roadworthiness of vehicles. Extending the first test for cars from three to four years is not what consumers or the industry wants given the serious risk posed to road safety and vehicles’ environmental performance. The latest vehicles are equipped with advanced safety systems but it is still critical that wear and tear items such as tyres and brakes are checked regularly and replaced. We urge government to scrap its plans to change a test system that has played a vital role in making the UK’s roads among the safest in the world.”

However, a story in the Telegraph suggests that the motor industry might be living in its own echo chamber. Under the headline ‘Car industry battles changes that could save drivers £100m a year’, the story mentions the SMMT report and counters it with a similar survey conducted by the AA, which asked the same question but phrased differently. In this survey, only 26 percent wished to keep the current regime, with 44 percent keen to change to four years and the remainder ambivalent. Luke Bodset of the AA press office was quoted as saying: “Cars now have the ability to ‘squawk’ and tell drivers if there is a problem with the tyres or battery as well as more fundamental mechanical maladies” he told the paper.

Neither tyre pressure nor states of battery charge are part of the MOT, but his sentiment seemed to chime with a high number of the readers that responded in the the below-the-line comments. “Ridiculous arguments by the motor servicing industry and a change that is long overdue” wrote reader Richard Bassett. Andrew Blowers concurred, writing: “A healthy dose of self-interest from the motor trade then. Modern cars are so well put together and safe that a four years makes perfect sense!”

Not all readers agreed. “South Africa had roadworthy checks only at change of ownership. I don’t recall any checks during 18 years in Botswana” wrote Charles Guerin. “Makes me appreciate the British MOT. At least I have a statistically reasonable chance that the vehicle coming towards me will be able to avoid me”.

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RAC FOUNDATION WARNS OF AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE MOT CHANGES

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RAC FOUNDATION WARNS OF AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE MOT CHANGES


A Director of the RAC Foundation has warned of how the MOT will need to adapt as vehicles have an increasing amount of autonomy, backed by sensors.

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme Wednesday morning, Steve Gooding said: “We need to get our heads around how to certify that these vehicles are roadworthy. We are dealing with artificial intelligence and that represents a challenge”

Gooding also spoke about an issue that had been recently raised by a House of Lords technology committee that the most concerning issue about the vehicles was the point that they hand control back to the driver.

Also speaking on the same segment was Paul Newman, Founder of Oxbotica – a company developing control systems for autonomous vehicles. On the subject of connected cars and hacking, he said: “It is something we think about all the time and it is important… We need to bring trust in these vehicles”. He added that the same concerns would in time ‘affect anything that moves’ including farm vehicles and mining machines.self driving Jaguar

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FOUR YEAR MOT PROPOSAL FROM DfT

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FOUR YEAR MOT PROPOSAL FROM DfT


Junior transport minister Andrew Jones

Junior transport minister Andrew Jones

The government has launched a proposal to increase the time for new cars to have their first MOT from three years to four.

“New vehicles are much safer than they were 50 years ago”, said Junior Transport Minister Andrew Jones, “So it is only right we bring the MOT test up to date to help save motorists money where we can.”

Unsurprisingly, this has not gone down well with aftermarket trade bodies. Stuart James, from RMI,’s Independent Garage Association said: “This proposal would, without doubt, cost consumers more in repair costs, incentivise “clockers” and be detrimental to the UK’s excellent road safety record for no particular gain.” He continued: “At the three year period alone this change will see 400,000 unroadworthy cars on the road for another 12 months and no official mileage recorded until year 4”. James also mentioned that a fine and three penalty points for a ‘blown’ tyre exceeds that of a £54.85 MOT test if the car had been checked by the garage prior.

Wendy Williamson, Chief Executive of the IAAF, concurs with James. She said: “40 percent of all cars fail their MOT currently but even with improvements in vehicle technology, the main causes of MOT failure is still brakes, tyres and lights.”

“That is something clearly down to use of the car and we would oppose the DfT’s proposition on safety grounds”, adding that Britain has the safest roads in Europe on record with the current 3-1-1 MOT reinforcing this.

The IAAF has opened the statement up to its members for comment as both the IAAF and RMI prepare reports to respond to the DfT’s consultation before the proposed deadline on 16th April. If all goes to plan, new rules will apply from 2018.

Interestingly, the government statement was published in error two weeks before it was officially announced, giving trade bodies and road safety groups plenty of time to prepare their ammunition.

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ASA DELETES DPF REMOVAL ADVERT

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ASA DELETES DPF REMOVAL ADVERT


Advert watchdog, the ASA has banned a web page offering DPF removal services.

The webpage, on the website of Somerset-based Avon Tuning, offered DPF removal services, Under the heading “Will removing the DPF result in an MOT failure?” text stated “… the only MOT regulation regarding the DPF is a simple visual inspection, as long as the DPF still appears to be fitted – the vehicle will pass the MOT visual inspection. Therefore we only remove the internal core, leaving the outer casing in place. The vehicle will appear to have a DPF fitted and will appear unmodified”.

A complaint was lodged to the regulator by Friends of the Earth as the organisation understood it to be illegal to drive on a public road with the DPF removed, challenged whether the advert was illegal by ommiting this information.

In response, Avon Tuning said that the ad made clear through the qualification “*Our DPF Removal service is sold for off-road use only” that the service wasn’t for road-going vehicles. The company did not believe that this could mislead consumers into thinking that it was legal to drive without a DPF on a public road.

However, the ASA did not agree. “We considered that it was material information that the advertised procedure would make a vehicle illegal to use on public roads and therefore the ad needed to make that information immediately clear to consumers” read a statement from the watchdog. “As such, because that information was omitted from the ad and it instead suggested that vehicles which had their DPF removed could be used on public roads, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

The ASA banned the ad in the original form. After the ruling went live, the tuning company added a longer disclaimer stating that the service would likely render the vehicle illegal on a public road and removed details about the MOT visual inspection. However, all the details of the deletion service offered remain on the page.

 

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KEEPING CUSTOMERS AT THE HEART OF THE OPERATION


Nikos Germanou shows us around the Brunswick Garage in North London

Nikos

After businessman (and CAT columnist) Andy Savva sold north-London’s Brunswick Garage last December, we were keen to see the operation in new hands. Nikos Germanou, Managing Director worked with Savva for over 16 years; starting his career at the tender age of 17. Germanou explained: “I started with Andy in 1990 at his ‘then’ garage Motor Services in Muswell Hill before moving to the Shaftesbury Garage in Crouch End where we won the Independent Garage of the Year Award 2001”.

Savva eventually sold Shaftesbury Garage, East Barnet, in 2005, with Germanou moving on shortly after to manage an independent in Welham Green for eight years before rejoining Andy at Brunswick Garage in 2014. He elaborated: “I ran the Welham Garage for eight years, building up the business and making a good profit, but I wanted a little bit more from the company than just a wage, so I decided to look for my own garage”. Germanou was advised by Savva not to buy any of the garages he had viewed and instead, offered him a Manager’s position with bonus schemes at Brunswick Garage.

In 2015, Savva was ready to sell up in order to pursue other business ventures leaving Germanou to continue working under new management. However, after completing a management buyout with a team of private investors, Germanou became one of the new owners who carried on the business. “It was a big step buying the garage because of the amount of money, but after getting a partner in, we managed to
buy the business within a month” he said.
“From day one, I have always followed in Andy’s footstep’s and the way I run the garage is exactly how he runs it by always putting the customers first”.

WORKSHOP
As we entered the workshop, it reminded us that this is larger than your standard independent with the 14,000 sq ft. space comprising 12 service ramps, one wheel ramp and two MOT bays catering to class four, five and seven vehicles. Germanou elaborated: “The core vehicles we work on are BMW, VAG and Land Rover. We also do other brands from Minis up to Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley, so we have quite a vast range of cars that we cater for”.

TOOLS AND PRODUCTS
With so many different models coming in for servicing, the team are equipped for the challenge thanks to the latest diagnostic tools and garage equipment on site. “The main diagnostic tool we use is the new Autologic Assist”, said Germanou. “We also use the Snap-on Verus Pro tool for fixing faults first time round”. He told CAT that Tecalemit is the firm’s core supplier for its braking, testing and lifting equipment.

TRAINING
It seems imperative whether you’re running an independent or franchised garage to invest in staff training to keep workforces updated with ongoing product developments. Brunswick Garage stays ahead of the game by sending its technicians on at least two courses each year. “We are part of the Royal Motoring Industry (RMI) so we try to do as many Bosch courses as we can”, Germanou added: “We are also doing a few BMW courses at the BMW Academy and some ZF training courses”.

Workshop has 12 service ramps

Workshop has 12 service ramps

Although it’s mandatory to get your staff fully trained, enrolling onto a course can get pricey, especially with the changes to MOT Tester Training as Germanou highlights: “The changes to MOT tester training has affected us in a way because I’m trying to get some of our guys trained up and the RMI training courses aren’t cheap anymore whereas before it was free through the government. This has left us funding the training ourselves which is a little hard along with the amount of time off for staff as well”. Funding issues aside, this doesn’t seem to have taken a toll on business with some exciting plans in the pipeline.

WINTER PREPARATION
While the team prepare for the winter months, Germanou discussed his business strategy for the New Year. “In 2017, I’d like to achieve one or two more staff from the Land Rover or VAG brands, which would benefit the company. There’s also going to be many more hybrids coming in the next couple of years so we’re trying to organise some courses for that”, he concluded: “My view is to progress with the training to try and become one of the first independent hybrid specialists. It’s all about electronics now and that’s what I’m aiming towards for the future”.

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JUMP IN CARS HAVING NO MOT ON GARAGE ARRIVAL


A survey of garages has found that nine out of ten have seen an increase in vehicles being presented for test without already having a valid certificate in force. The increase stems from the government’s decision to abolish paper discs and to digitise the system in 2014.

Checking a vehicle’s paper tax disc used to be a common method of checking whether a vehicle still had a valid MOT, as road tax and MOTs usually coincide. Now that the system has been digitised, consumers who pay for their road tax monthly receive no reminders that their tax is due, and therefore potentially forget to MOT their car.

The survey, conducted by the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) was distributed across the motor trade, and the results found that 43.8 percent of the trade had noticed a ‘significant’ increase in MOTs where the vehicle is out of test since the road tax changes came in, and 91.2 percent overall had seen an increase of some kind.

Respondents were also asked if they had any further comments, and over a quarter of them responded. There was a general consensus that although customers forgetting to MOT their vehicles have always been an issue, the problem has worsened since the 2014 road tax changes.

Many of the comments from garage owners say that an MOT reminder service is something their business has had to provide to customers themselves, but they believe it should be the Government’s responsibility.

Stuart James, RMI Director commented, “The results of this survey overwhelmingly show that we were right to have concerns. In the short space of time since the road tax changes were put in place, the percentage of consumers that are unaware when their car’s MOT has expired has increased dramatically. As a result, motorists who wouldn’t normally seek to break the law are unwittingly becoming criminals.”

Sandy Burgess, SMTA Chief Executive commented, “In light of our results, we strongly recommend that the Government introduce an official reminder service that tells motorists when their  vehicle’s MOT is due. This will reduce confusion from consumers and ensure more aren’t unknowingly becoming criminals, and it will also take the pressure away from small businesses to remind their customers of their MOT renewal date. Most importantly, it will improve road safety in the UK.

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LONDON MAYOR PROPOSES SCRAPPAGE AND TOUGH ULEZ

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LONDON MAYOR PROPOSES SCRAPPAGE AND TOUGH ULEZ


London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has launched plans for ‘the toughest crackdown’ on older vehicles ‘by any major city around the world’. An extended Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be part of a major public consultation launched on July 5.

The idea of an expanded ULEZ was already on the cards, but the new proposals go further and will be implemented sooner than the original stratergy.

Parts of the Mayor’s detailed proposals include plans for a new national scrappage scheme, as speculated on catmag.co.uk over the past few weeks.

Diesel vehicles stand to loose the most, but all vehicles that fail to meet Euro-4 standard will have to pay a surchage for each day they are used. For light vehicles this is likely to be £10, rising to £100 for HGVs and coaches. This will be in addition to the congestion charge.

The public have until Friday July 29 to feed back on the first round of the consultation, further more detailed consultation will take place later this year and some measures could be implemented as early as 2017, with the rest following in 2019.

Sadiq Khan said: “Tough challenges call for tough measures, so I’m proposing a new £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles in central London from 2017, followed by an even stronger crackdown on vehicles pumping out hazardous pollutants”.

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