As an independent vehicle Repairer we often get asked about the servicing and repairs of owners vehicles whilst they are still under the manufacturer's warranty.
The whole area is covered by the Block Exemption Regulations (BER) 2002, which gave motorists almost total freedom of choice in where they buy their new car and where they get it serviced; a fact that generally hasn't filtered through to the consumer. For servicing, the British consumer is spending £500 million per year more than they should by going to expensive official dealers when they can get just as good quality from independent garages (source: Office of Fair Trade).
The BER legislation was initially derived from the European Union (see, they're good for something!) and it was designed to promote competition in what had effectively become a monopolised market place. Now that it's been enshrined in UK law and policed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), a genuinely competitive market is slowly emerging from what was one of the worst excesses of Rip-off Britain.
The BER specifically prohibits the manufacturer from insisting that servicing is only performed within the dealer network, nor that only original manufacturer's parts are used.
The only (sensible) conditions are that the servicing is done in accordance with the manufacturer's schedule and is recorded as such, and that 'appropriate quality' parts are used. We feel that the phrase 'appropriate quality' leaves the door open to a dispute between the manufacturer and the parts supplier, so to be absolutely sure, we at the Alfa Workshop only use manufacturer's parts.
Other details about BER include that part manufacturers must be able to supply Original Equipment parts under their own brand to independent specialists and wholesalers and not just to the vehicle manufacturer, and that anyone with a legitimate requirement for technical information has the right to it in a usable format and sensible cost.
To be fair on the manufacturers, their compliance with the new law is now good (not least because of the swingeing fines that can be levied against them if they aren't). But then again, they aren't exactly quick to tell their customers that they are now free to make a choice.
So, do your friends a favour and spread the word....