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‘No-laptop policy flouts law’

A vehicle repairs pressure group is claiming that insurers are obliging authorised repairers to breach data protection laws by failing to provide their engineers with adequate laptop computer equipment.

“Repairers are adamant that this is taking place and have confirmed it to me by a number of emails,” says Shaun O’Reilly, research director of the Body Repair Industry Campaign (BRIC). He adds: “It beggars belief that insurers are putting pressure on repairers to act improperly simply because they are not prepared to make the proper investment themselves.”

Esure and Direct Line have both come under fire from BRIC for allegedly operating a ‘no laptops’ policy. BRIC claims that auditing engineers are asking to use repairers’ own Audatex AudaWorkstations to verify work estimates.

In doing so engineers would have access to customers’ personal information and other insurers’ data. As “data controllers” this could make repairers liable for criminal prosecution under the Data Protection Act. A spokeswoman for Esure said: ”We really can’t understand where these reports have come from. From the very beginning our engineers have always carried laptops.”

According to Esure, its repairers send work schedules electronically to its in-house technical department. These are downloaded to engineer’s lap-tops and taken to the site for auditing purposes.

A repairer based in London told AM that since Esure contracts were taken in-house at the end of last year this practice has changed. He says Esure engineers do not carry lap-tops and ask to use repairers’ own systems. They are then able to view every estimate the company has ever done. “I am very nervous about the integrity of the data we hold,” he says, adding: ”It is wholly inappropriate for the repairer to have to supply the equipment engineers need to do their job.”

Esure says it welcomes BRIC raising the issue and has sent a note to their engineers to point out the bad practise of using repairers’ systems.

Direct Line issued AM a short statement. “Direct Line does not have a ‘no laptops’ policy. We are in the process of moving towards a solution where all our engineers have laptops. Various offline solutions are available to repairers and engineers which are designed to ensure we are not in breach of data protection regulations.”

A source in a Yorkshire bodyshop told AM they had been asked by senior Direct Line engineers to provide an Audatex workstation for their use when visiting.

Audatex marketing manager, Sharon Wiggins says: ”Audatex systems enable a filter to be set which restricts the view of the engineer – or any third party – to work specific to that work provider. Using this should ensure there is no breach of the Data Protection Act. We will be communicating this to our customers via our web-site.”

She admits auditing engineers using Audatex workstations without the filter does expose repairers to risk under the Data Protection Act.

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