A BBC Inside Out programme shown on Monday 28th January featured a report on Green Motion's UK network. This programme contains a number of inaccuracies, false claims and misleading information.
Although the Green Motion International CEO Richard Lowden participated in an interview with the production team, the BBC did not provide details of the cases raised in their report prior to broadcast.
Now that it has been broadcast, we have set out our responses to the main issues raised below.
1. Charging Customers for Damage
The programme featured three cases where Green Motion customers were unhappy with how vehicle damage charges had been dealt with by franchise locations. We have looked into each case and the facts are as follows:
2. Repairing Vehicles
In the programme, the BBC presenter claimed that despite customers being charged for damage, vehicles were often not sent for repair straight away creating a risk more than one customer could be charged for the same damage.
It is not uncommon within the industry for rental vehicles not to be repaired immediately. If a vehicle is considered unsafe, or damage has rendered it undesirable for other customers, it will be taken out of service and repaired immediately. Alternatively, if the vehicle only has minor damage, it may remain on the road until the end of its lease period, which is typically six months.
At that point, the franchisee can either refurbish the vehicle in full or send it back to the manufacturer without repairs but at a reduced value in line with the refurbishment costs. All costs of repair, whether during the lease period or in the form of reduced value on return, must be met by Green Motion UK franchisees. They must therefore recover the cost of damage from customers or they will incur losses to their business.
Green Motion UK franchisees do not want to have to charge customers for damage. They certainly do not want to charge a customer for damage that they did not cause. The company has robust systems in place which electronically record damage on a central database. If that damage previously existed and was detected prior to a hire commencing it will be recorded on the documentation produced from our centralised system that the customer signs. We also ask our customers to carefully check the vehicle condition they are signing for is a true and fair reflection before their rental begins.
3. Cost of Damage Repairs
All Green Motion franchisees lease new cars from manufacturers that must be returned in pristine condition at the end of their lease agreement. This means any damage that occurs, no matter how small, must be repaired to the manufacturers’ standard or the franchisee will face severe penalties. All repairs must be carried out by manufacturer approved bodyshops and / or their own franchise dealership repair centres, which means the cost is often significantly higher than a customer might be quoted by a local bodyshop that does not operate to manufacturer standards.
We were surprised to see the BBC using Noble Auto Repairs Ltd. as their source of comparative quotes for damage repair. This is not an approved bodyshop that falls well below the standards that would be authorised for use Green Motion franchisees to use. It does not operate to the standards demanded by manufacturers, nor is its pricing representative.
Comparing rough estimates provided in response to a photograph is not a legitimate way of assessing repair costs and misleads the audience on the true cost of repairs faced by Green Motion UK franchisees.
4. Incentives to staff for damage reporting
The BBC Inside Out programme reported allegations by a person claiming to be a ‘whistleblower’ who previously worked at a Green Motion UK franchise that they were offered cash incentives for seeking out damage on returned vehicles in order to unfairly charge customers.
The BBC continued to decline sharing full details of the allegations with us before their programme was aired. We have asked the BBC to indicate which UK franchise operation these allegations relate to so that we can carry out a full investigation. If we find any wrongdoing on the part of staff or management, we will take decisive action.
Under the terms of their agreement with us, franchise holders are permitted to incentivise staff to encourage good operational efficiency, but they are absolutely not allowed to incentivise them to wrongly charge customers. This goes completely against our customer service policy and undermines confidence in our brand, so we must ensure no staff employed by UK franchisees engage in this dishonest practice.
5. Damage Assessment Company
The BBC claimed some customers had been charged inflated damage repair costs because Green Motion UK franchisees had engaged the services of a disreputable damage assessment company called Gray & Company.
When this concern was first raised in 2018, the Green Motion UK management team reviewed its franchise network and determined that Gray & Company had only provided services to 3 UK franchisees, none of which were featured in the documentary.
It immediately suspended the services of Gray & Company and instructed all franchisees that no third party inspection organisations could be used unless vetted and authorised by Green Motion UK and Green Motion International. A new pricing matrix has since been introduced that will eliminate the need for third party damage assessment in the majority of cases.
Richard Lowden, CEO of Green Motion International, concludes:
“We have contacted the BBC with our response to highlight a number of inaccuracies and misleading elements within their Inside Out report. Whilst I am disappointed the programme highlights a small number of unhappy customers, I am confident the improvement work we have undertaken in partnership with the Green Motion UK management over the past six months has significantly improved the customer’s experience with us seeing a dramatic drop in customer complaints.
“Developing our customer proposition, reducing complaints and improving customer satisfaction tops our strategic priorities in 2019. We will continue to engage with industry partners, customers, consumer groups and journalists to gather feedback and guide our improvements.
“Whilst we recognise there is plenty of work still to do, our ambition is to use the experience we have gained to build a leading customer experience in the car rental sector.”