Hand car washes a hotbed for illegal activity, says CWA

"Non-compliant hand car washes, that vastly outnumber legally operated sites, are blatantly disregarding employment laws, with minimal enforcement from the relevant authorities. When employment laws are ignored, people suffer. These hand car washes, many of which only accept payment in cash, are often a hotbed of modern slavery and other illegal activities, such as money laundering and tax evasion. The continued lack of action on this issue empowers these criminals and endangers lives." said Gordon Balmer, Executive Director of the Car Wash Association (CWA) in response to recent Home Office figures showing that hand car washes racked up almost £2.5m in civil penalties last year.

The CWA has been lobbying for the establishment of a National Licensing Scheme, which would ensure all these areas of non-compliance are properly enforced.

Balmer continued:

“A National Licensing Scheme must be part of any prospective Government’s strategy to address these employment law violations. Inaction allows criminals to operate with impunity. The CWA is urging the next government to make this a top priority in their legislative agenda.

Work is already being done by the CWA and Nottingham Trent University to establish a framework for a National Licensing Scheme. We call on legislators to partner with us to ensure that victims are supported, and offenders are brought to justice."


The Home Office published their ‘illegal working civil penalties: anonymous regional report’ on May 30 for the period October to 31 December 2023.

About Car Wash Association

The Car Wash Association was originally established in 2007 by wash operators and industry suppliers and is now officially incorporated as part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI).