PMF investigates the Verification of Lubricant Specifications (VLS) and its role in the motor industry by putting the questions to VLS Chairman Andrew Goddard.
PMF: Tell us a bit about VLS – the organisation’s background, history etc.
Andrew Goddard (AG): In 2013 the lubricants industry faced a problem. Lubricant products were being sold on the marketplace with claims that were simply unrealistic. Closer inspection found that occasionally sub-standard formulations provided by newly-established companies were being passed off as the latest specifications, or even failing to perform effectively at low temperatures.
Although this occurred in the minority of cases and the vast majority of lubricants available in the marketplace met the exacting standards of market and OEM specifications, it still gave cause for concern.
Out of this concern, reputable lubricant blenders and manufacturers came together to launch the Verification of Lubricant Specifications (VLS). VLS is an industry-led service that independently validates complaints regarding the technical specifications and performance claims of products. Since its inception in November 2013 VLS has arbitrated over 49 different lubricant complaints covering issues such as cold weather properties through to compliance with industry standards and market regulations.
Verification of Lubricant Specifications is an independent organisation providing a credible and trusted means to verify lubricant specifications.
“VLS believes it is the responsibility of every lubricant marketer to promote their products in a way that will support an effective purchasing decision by the end user.”
PMF: How does this affect motor factors?
AG: Although the service is aimed at resolving product complaints that are often made between different lubricant companies, the overall objective is to protect all those working in the supply chain. Our aim is to create a transparent and open market for the purchase and sale of lubricant products. For commercial users, this means that they can be assured that lubricants are what they say they are and can do what is being claimed. Our work allows motor factors to safeguard their reputation by being confident that the lubricant products they are buying and selling are suitable for use and not going to cause damage to vehicles. Everything from engine to transmission and gear oil is covered by the scheme.
PMF: How does VLS remain impartial when adjudicating on cases?
AG: When VLS receives a case the product details are anonymised and sent to an independent Technical Panel for review. The panel is composed of technical experts from across the industry who review the specification of a product against relevant industry and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) standards. They review a technical specification, assessing the product solely on its technical merits.
Following validation and any physical external testing required, the panel makes its recommendation to the VLS Board of Directors comprising of industry leaders whose membership is distinct from that of the technical panel. The Board considers the recommendation and makes a final decision. Even at this stage the company, brand and product are still confidential.
Once the Board decides on a case the Named Party responsible for the product will be contacted with details of the complaint, any technical evidence for the decision and requests that the company sets out its steps for bringing the product into compliance. The company has twenty-eight days to respond. It is likely that VLS will enter into a period of dialogue with the Named Party as our intention is to encourage greater compliance in the marketplace and not to penalise non-compliance.
The steps taken by the Named Party will be reviewed by the Technical Panel and agreed. Only at the end of the process are final details published on the VLS website as a matter of public record.
PMF: Is membership of VLS open to anyone?
AG: Membership is open to any lubricants manufacturer, marketer, agent, distributor, service provider, or commercial or industrial end-user, including motor factors and garage workshops. We welcome new members to join VLS and be part of our Lubricant Industry Initiative to bring transparency to the lubricant market place and protect and educate the end user.