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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Monday, 06 December 2010

A letter to the Right Hon Nicholas Soames MP, in relation to for request for a referral to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

“On 20 October 2020, you referred Mr Brigatti’s complaint about the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA) to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. We have carefully considered Mr Brigatti’s complaint and I am now able to let you know our decision.

Mr Brigatti complains about VOSA’s handling of reports he made to them about a bonnet failure/safety defect on his Renault Clio II. He complains that VOSA did not carry out formal inspections of any vehicles with the fault. Mr Brigatti does not consider that VOSA carried out a transparent or impartial investigation in the fault. He considers that a safety recall should have been enforced by VOSA. Mr Brigatti would like VOSA to carry out an impartial, independent and comprehensive investigation using scientific and technical engineers, mechanics and experts who can advise why the fault has happened. Mr Brigatti would like the report of such an investigation to be openly available and not owned by Renault. Mr Brigatti would also like to see a review of the safety assessment procedures at VOSA.

It may be helpful if I explain about the Ombudsman’s remit. The Ombudsman can, in principle, investigate the administrative actions of VOSA. The Ombudsman only usually investigates a complaint where it appears that there are grounds for believing the body’s actions to have been maladministrative; that this has resulted in an injustice to the aggrieve which is yet to be remedied; and that an investigation by this office is likely to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

We have decided not to investigate Mr Brigatti’s complaint as it does not appear that VOSA have acted unreasonably. VOSA have explained that it is not within their remit to investigate defects themselves and that it is their responsibility to oversee the investigation by the manufacturer. The powers to enforce the safety standards of the automotive industry come from the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and the UK Cde of Practice on Vehicle Safety Defects. VOSA only have the remit to formally pursue defects which are deemed to be part of the design or construction of a vehicle. VOSA’s UK Code of Practice on Vehicle Safety Defects places primary responsibility for identification of evidence of a safety defect with the vehicle manufacturer.

VOSA did oversee an investigation by Renault. The investigation found that the fault was not caused by a safety defect in the design or construction of the bonnet catch but was caused by a lack of the required maintenance of the part; or the failure to close the bonnet correctly; or a combination of the two factors. VOSA have explained what action they took to remedy the fault. VOSA worked with Renault to gain the latest vehicle keeper information from the DVLA and in 2007 Renault updated the owners’ manual and the service plans held at dealerships to remind owners and technicians of the maintenance schedule for bonnet locks and latches. VOSA also said that in 2007 and 2008 Renault had issued customer mailing offering to check, clean and lubricate bonnet catches and replace them if there was significant corrosion. It appears that VOSA acted reasonably, within their remit, and have provided reasonable explanations to Mr Brigatti about their role.

I appreciated that Mr Brigatti may be disappointed with our decision. However, I trust that I have clearly explained the reasons for it. I have sent a copy of this letter to Mr Brigatti.”

Shall I let it go - you know me by now!! :)

Comments
More questions than answers!!!
Written by abrigatti on 2010-12-06 19:07:58
     
  • They accept it is a fault – but not a safety defect?  
  • VOSA should “enforce” safety standards, and not "just work" with the manufacturer. 
  • They say that the oversee investigations – how? There are no experts within VOSA, so they can easily be “blinded” with Science or Engineering statements from the manufacturers which make it difficult for VOSA to counter or disprove without any scientific expertises or mechanical knowledge. An example: a mechanism was meant to be maintenance-free (doesn’t require maintenance) and is meant to have two catches to prevent it releasing. What we have uncovered is that the TWO mechanisms have failed – one being a safety catch mechanism. I don’t need to be an expert but there be NO WAY for a safety mechanism to fail.  
  • Maybe VOSA need to define what is the specification for a mechanism to be a labelled as a “safety device” – if there is evidence that it CAN fail. What are the requirements – we now assume it doesn't have to work 100% of the time...is it a 99.9% effectiveness sufficient, how about 92% effectiveness – or can we accept a higher probability of failure, and still accept the mechanism to function as a safety one? VOSA continue to not be clear on this?  
  • How can such an investigation be administered effectively if many many questions remain unanswered by VOSA and Renault? 
  • Here’s another one – how can a mechanism which has been lubricated by Renault during servicing – still “fail”. This means even with the remedial actions by Renault and VOSA – cases continue to be reported on the UK roads. The preventative measures are NOT working. Why aren’t VOSA not looking into this? 
  • What if a vehicle is not serviced by a Renault dealership – there doesn’t appear to be any remedial instances here!? By putting an extra page in the owners’ manual might resolve Renault’s liability, but doesn’t resolve the fact that some independent centres will not look at the mechanism. 

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