Can I use my preferred car body repair shop rather than the Insurers approved garage?
What can be worse than having your car involved in an accident?
Assuming the safety of life and limb, it would be the trouble vehicle owners have to go through with auto insurance companies. Once an accident happens, the thoughts at the top of most owners minds are how soon they can get their cars back and how close will it be to its pre-accident condition. People want to go to their preferred car body repair shop to get the repairs done quickly and professionally.
Sad to say, however, that your insurance company does not necessarily share these concerns; the company is only interested in saving money for itself, by paying out as little as possible to get your car back on the road. Often realizing owners are anxious during these periods, Insurers resort to all sorts of tricks to impose unfair conditions on the policyholder.
Be careful, know your rights…
Vehicle owners have reported how Insurance companies forced them to use the insurer’s preferred repair workshop, rather than their own preferred car body repair shop. These companies often misrepresent the facts of the policy to make it appear as if customers are obligated to use their specified repair service. And if the customer resists, the company simply jacks up their deductibles or stalls the whole process.
Insurance companies do such things and get away with them because of the average policyholder’s ignorance and due to most people’s tendency to want to avoid trouble. However, if you are reading this, maybe you are having difficulties with your vehicle insurance and are looking for some answers. If that is the case, this article will article will help you understand your rights and how to protect them.
Why Insurers Have Preferred Workshops and What it Means for Your Car
Most Auto Insurance companies maintain a list of company-approved repair shops where they want policyholders to go for repairs. The companies do not do this from altruism or for your convenience; it is a purely business arrangement that allows them to make and save money efficiently. By having these agreements in place, your insurer is guaranteeing that they will always pay less for repairs and often in this process losing quality of workmanship.
On their part, the repair shops, which work hard to get these deals, can secure a steady stream of jobs from the Insurer. The shops get a stable source of income and the Insurer saves money; a win-win for both. But that leaves only one person unaccounted for; the car owner. Do you stand to benefit anything from these arrangements or should you be worried about them? You should be worried. You should be able to use your preferred car body repair shop.
Your insurer estimates the cost of repairs based on the “Average Repair Cost” – an estimate of the barest minimum the job will cost, calculated from various general sources. These estimations let the insurer pay very little on the repairs by squeezing the repair shop for every penny of profits it would have made, with the result that the following usually happens:
What to expect.
- Since the approved auto body shop, like any other business, is out to make money, it will find ways to do the job and still make money off it. This usually means using third-party manufacturer parts rather than Original Equipment Manufacturer parts on your vehicle. When they do this, it not only affects your warranty but also depreciates the value of your vehicle. But most importantly, this is a violation of your policy, which will usually state that the vehicle should be restored to the same condition that it was in prior to the accident. In other words, it should not lose its market value.
- The other problem with using the company-approved repair shop rather than your preferred car body repair shop is that the Insurance Company has a deadline-date by which the shop must conclude work on the car, in order to receive full payment. The company has its eye on the cost of providing you with alternative transportation, as well as the time cost of the repairs and wants to cut both. Thus the repair shop must rush the job in order to get its money in full. Therefore, if extra time is required to do a better job, that work will not be done because no one is going to pay the additional costs.
But Can You Say No?
Emphatically, YES YOU CAN! Unless on the rare occasions where an insurance policy contains a clause clearly stating that the insured person must use a company-approved repair shop, policyholders have a right to reject the insurer’s recommendations. This is not just a matter of fairness but a personal right recognized and protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Insurance Act 2015.
These laws do a lot for your protection as a consumer – they include, for example:
- Laws against anti-competition practices that prevent vehicle owners from freely choosing any repair shop for repairs; your insurer cannot force a repair shop on you.
- Regulations against actions intended to coerce or mislead a customer into making choices that they would not have made otherwise.
- Places the burden of obtaining information on the shoulders of the insurer; an insurer cannot decline to pay a claim because the insured did not provide some important information.
- Prevent insurers from dodging claims payments because of a breach by the customer when that breach has no relevance to the claim in question.
In addition to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the Consumer Rights Directive 1993. also protects your right to use your own repairer. This directive is recognized by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the Financial Conduct Authority of the UK (FCA) and the Vehicle Builders & Repairers Association (VBRA).
Some Practical Steps
Okay, now you know you have a right to choose your repairer, but your Insurance Company comes up with counterclaims. If the company acts in any of the following ways, this is what you should do.
- Attempt to charge you an excess above what your policy says. To force you to comply, the company might inflate the deductible you are supposed to pay. If they do, refer them to https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/regulation/5/made and https://www.handbook.fca.org.uk/handbook/UNFCOG/1/3.html
- Claim Processing Delays: They may tell you that it will take longer to process your claims; because of receipt and handling of claim documents may be less than efficient. To avoid this, use only a reputable body shop that is familiar with claims processes.
- Disputes over pricing; The company might press you for an additional estimate to the one provided by your preferred car body repair shop. You should not do this. Let the Insurer provide an engineer to draw up an estimate. If you do not agree with their estimate, you may then get another estimate from an independent engineer. We will be happy to do this, if you contact us here.
Failing all these, you should submit a formal complaint by email or letter to your insurer’s designated complaints address and remember to keep a copy. If after eight weeks, you do not hear from them or are rejected, take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) by filling out the complaints form on the website.
Information provided by Car Cosmetic Solutions Limited.
Car Cosmetic Solutions Limited has the best reputation in auto body repairs; from scratches, scuffs to major accident and collision repairs. We are the preferred car body repair shop to go to, claimed by our customers.
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