The Car Wash Association, in conjunction with the Petrol Retailers Association, is continuing to work towards achieving a much greater level of compliance among unregulated hand car washes (HCWs) with employment law, fiscal law, Health & Safety regulations and, most recently, in dealing with the environmental hazards of trade effluent disposal. To this end, the CWA lodged an extensive submission to the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on May 18, ahead of an evidence inquiry session later this month examining HCWs, where senior representatives from the CWA are expected to be invited as expert witnesses. This inquiry will focus primarily on compliance with waste water regulations, alongside allegations of tax evasion and modern slavery. Of special interest to the EAC inquiry will be the correct storage and use of chemicals, some possibly toxic like hydrochloric acid, and the disposal of the trade effluent resulting from the use of such chemicals.

The CWA is uniquely placed to provide facts, figures and an overview on the unchecked growth of unregulated HCWs over the past 15 years with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 such operations having spread across the UK.

It is estimated that as many as 600 forecourts have leased former automatic car wash bays to third-party HCW operators. The very low-price points charged by unregulated and non-compliant HCWs and the unfair competition that results from this has led to the closure of the traditional automatic businesses.

The inexorable rise of HCWs, not matched in any other EU country, has resulted in regulated and therefore compliant automatic car wash numbers shrinking by over 20% in the decade to 2016. This has led to a loss of tax revenue to the Treasury from sales of equipment, parts and chemical supplies.

Not only are there legitimate concerns about environmental and tax issues, but the recent raids by multi-agency enforcement officers have revealed serious breaches of employment legislation including human trafficking and slavery as well as money laundering and drug dealing.