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Box 15: 'Consumer detriment' in the car industry

Car servicing is an example of the very high economic cost that the UK bears from markets in which the sellers have considerably more information than buyers. Since 1985, there have been studies of the market that have found consistent problems and complaints, with mystery shopping confirming widespread evidence of poor standards, mis-selling and overcharging. Consumer detriment in the car servicing industry is estimated at £4 billion a year.

The internet is only just starting to push the information balance in favour of the consumer. Academic research from the US, published as long ago as 2001, examined 300,000 car purchases, and discovered that customers who used an online service to inform themselves paid on average 2% ($450) less.

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