Bodyshops are considering boycotting Zurich Insurance over the busy winter months in a bid to force the insurer to improve labour rates and working terms.
Zurich, which has put a hold on any labour rates increases this year, has circulated engineers, claims managers and broker with a letter informing them not to agree any work at a non-approved bodyshop if the rates are above its approved levels.
The letter said: “In any case where agreement cannot be reached we shall immediately seek the insured's permission to remove the vehicle to the Zurich authorised repairer.” Bodyshop consultant Robert Hadfield said the move could herald the scrapping of Zurich's approved repairer network. He claimed there was “no advantage” to being approved because Zurich was “drawing no distinction between approved and non-approved repairers”.
The insurer is presently reviewing its choice of estimating system as the contract with Motex ends. It is thought to favour either Audatex or the internet-based Inter-Est system.
Mr Hadfield said: “An internet-based system like Inter-Est would fit nicely with any plans by Zurich's to widen its choice of repairers.”
He believed the threat of strike action was “ a serious possibility – Zurich is at the bottom of most repairers' lists”.
The RMI has sent a letter to its members informing them of their legal rights. It says that should Zurich choose to remove a car from a non-approved bodyshop with the owner's agreement, the business is entitled to charge “reasonable” costs for overheads incurred. These might include recovery charges, estimates, storage and courtesy cars.