Motorists whose accident damaged cars need repairing are facing a Catch-22 situation where they could either be forced to pay escalating bills or face major repair delays because insurers refuse to pay up or bodyshops are overworked.
According to the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), Zurich Financial Services has told 'non-approved' vehicle body repairers it will only pay the same rate it pays to its 'approved' repairers - a rate the repair industry claims is far below the market average - and ZFS policyholders will be expected to make up the difference.
If the policy results in higher volumes of work among ZFS approved repairers, motorists could face serious delays this winter with getting their cars fixed, even for relatively minor repair jobs.
The RMI, which represents 4,000 body repairers in the UK, is warning ZFS policyholders that they could face a larger bill, just for making their own decision about where to have their cars repaired.
RMI bodyshop services director Bob Hood said: "Motor insurance policyholders are free to take their damaged cars to any repairer they choose. But if ZFS policyholders choose to use a local non-approved repairer, they may be asked to pay any extra costs because ZFS refuses to pay out any more than it pays to its own approved repairer network. This appears to be an attempt by the insurer to steer policyholders towards its own approved bodyshops to cut costs.
"ZFS appears to be deliberately restricting consumer choice by refusing to accept its responsibility as a motor insurer to cover the costs of accident damage repairs in such circumstances. ZFS policyholders should not stand for this."
The RMI claims some approved repairers accept low retail labour rates by insurers anticipating greater volumes of work as part of the repairer contract. But the high volumes cause delays for motorists whose cars need repairs. (November 20, 2001)