SERMI Q and A with Stuart James

SERMI Q and A with Stuart James


What is SERMI about, and why is it so important to the sector?

For many years the IGA has been fighting to obtain access to manufacturers’ information, particularly manufacturers’ security technical information, to help our members to repair cars.

As technology has advanced, access to security elements within a car has become more and more difficult to obtain, for obvious reasons: – avoiding vehicle theft is very important, and manufacturers don’t want their cars stolen.

So, for the right reasons, many garages have found it difficult to carry out, in some cases, basic repairs.

This scheme is a robust solution that the IGA has been working on for many years, to find a fully-encompassing, secure solution that all parties can agree to, that will work for reputable, hardworking, honest, independent garages.

This scheme will make life a lot easier for independent operators to repair cars. We know the difficulties that garages have been experiencing for many years, this whole situation will eventually go away with this solution. This is what we’ve been working towards for many, many years.

This is safeguarding independent garages for the future.

What actions does a garage need to take to join the scheme?

It’s very simple. You need to do a basic DBS check, then you just need to prove your identity and prove that your business is working within all the regulatory constraints of running a business in the UK.

That is all the scheme requires.

It’s just good honest business.

There are some other requirements written into the SERMI Scheme, like insurance – garages will need a minimum of £1million public liability cover, and to be fair, most businesses have this anyway. There is also an emissions criteria written into the standard – garages that are carrying out ECU mapping need to be aware they are not impacting emissions restrictions.

At its heart, the SERMI scheme is very simple and clear. It is about accessing a level of security information where the theft of a vehicle could be involved, and it is about checking the integrity of the owner of the business and the vehicle technician working on the car.

Nothing more.

Over many years the waters have been a bit muddied. What we’ve done is pulled the discussion back to the basics, cleared away the distractions, and spoken directly to everybody involved to reach agreement.

How much will garages have to pay?

We’re launching on a not-for-profit basis and providing it on terms that every garage in the country should be able to afford. We’re providing it at £25 per month for a 5-year contract or licence, and this is the licence for the garage owner and one of their technicians.

The initial set up will be for the garage itself and one technician. Additional technicians can be enrolled at £75 for the full 5-year period.

Who is behind the scheme in the UK?

The company that the IGA is using to deliver the scheme in the UK is the RMI’s ISO company called RMI Standards and Certification. RMI SC will be a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) and will audit the businesses that want to take part.

Can you explain more about the SERMI system?

We have researched systems globally, we have looked at a system in the United States, however, working alongside the government and other stakeholders, the preference from them was to mirror the European SERMI scheme. This turned out to be the best option from a feasibility perspective.

The Conformity Assessment Body is governed under an ISO principle by the UK regulator and will carry out the audits on behalf of the scheme. There is a central conduit called a Trust Centre that allows the technician to access manufacturers’ security level information, and the technician will access the system directly when connected to a car.

There is also a provision in place for remote service suppliers to access the car when approved by the technician who is with the car.

Under the terms of the scheme, only the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) – RMI SC – will hold personal information. The manufacturers will not see who is accessing their information. The conduit that takes the technician through to the manufacturers system, will not see anything apart from a name and an email address. All of the information and the access is confidential.

The Conformity Assessment Body will also be responsible for investigating any inappropriate behaviour that occurs with the information accessed, and reporting that, where appropriate, to the authorities.

What benefit will independent garages see?

If I was speaking to a member about this I’d say, “this will give you access to all vehicle manufacturers through one log-in. It will allow freedoms we’ve never seen before in the UK, to access the information needed to repair a car.

“Obviously that information has to be paid for – downloads will be costed – but that cost can be passed on to the customer and they’d have to pay that in a franchise garage as well.

“From a simplistic point of view, it means there is a future in your abilities to be able to repair a car, which has never been in place until now.”

Why has the IGA been so committed to this issue?

The IGA is part of the RMIF and a true not-for-profit trade association. We are the voice of the independent sector, and we fight the battles on behalf of that sector.

This is something which is a genuine issue for the whole independent sector, so we see it as our responsibility to find that solution.

The IGA has tirelessly worked to make this happen, and behind the scenes has engaged with all stakeholders directly. The key to this success has been our direct contact with all of the bodies involved, and the longstanding reputation of the IGA – as part of the RMI, the IGA has been owned by its members since 1913 and to this day has no commercial influences.

Are there benefits for the motorist as well as the garage sector?

In the UK, there is “right to repair” legislation, that says the manufacturer must provide the information to an independent garage, on behalf of the consumer, so the consumer has the right to take the car to any garage of their choice.

However, for the security elements of that information – there is no legislation in place for that information to be provided.

The SERMI scheme will provide clarity, choice and peace of mind for the consumer. If a consumer wishes to have anything that is linked to the security element of their car repaired in an independent garage, there is no obligation on the manufacturer to provide that information, which makes it very difficult for the consumer.

For the garage too it is difficult to know whether changing a wiper blade or even a battery is linked into a component that is on the security system, so it makes it difficult for both parties to understand whether they can fix that car or not.

This is all going to change now.

The scheme will also provide comfort for a consumer in knowing that the garage they visit has had their identity and their integrity checked, to prove that they are acting in an appropriate way.

Not just the business, but also individuals, those technicians have to undergo DBS checks, government checks – they are vetted to prove they have no recent criminal convictions, and they are not acting in an inappropriate way.

So, it’s added reassurance for a consumer.

How will you feel when the first independent garages log in to the system?

I will feel absolutely delighted – this is something that we have worked on for many, many years. It’s a huge achievement, particularly with the distraction of Brexit and many other factors.

4 July 2023