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Bodyshops to be fined £30 per day

Body repairers are said to be ‘outraged’ by the terms and conditions in a new approved repairer contract issued by WNS Assistance, the UK’s third biggest handler of motor claims after Norwich Union and Direct Line.

Andrew Moody, barrister and solicitor of Retail Motor Law, says there are concerns that if the terms of the contract were enforced, it could put repairers out of business.

“They feel threatened by the size of WNS, who appear to have a desire to micro-manage repairers’ business,” he says.

Moody believes many will sign the contract because they believe there are no other options available, and may cut corners to ensure their business remains viable.

Edwin Harrell, chief executive of the global WNS organization, says 95% of the network are happy with the terms and have signed the agreement. He adds: “We don’t benefit from the commercial terms of the contract. We operate an open book policy and we are not squeezing repairers to increase our own profits.”

One area of contention is that if a customer involved in a non-fault accident is referred by the repairer to a credit hire company, to protect the no-claims bonus, the repairer will be required to pay WNS £1,000.

Harrell says the contract prohibits repairers from offering this service to WNS customers because “our customers don’t want it. It can lead to higher insurance premiums in the long run”.

WNS will also calculate the completion date for a repair job and, if the bodyshop is late, they will be fined £30 per day unless they can give a reasonable excuse – substantially more than the £23.50 hourly labour rate. The contract fails to stipulate what is ‘reasonable’, says Moody, and the fine rises to £100 per day after 20 days.

“We don’t want to penalize our repairers,” said Harrell, “and we expect the clause will be implemented only very rarely. But we were finding that in cases where compensation was required, customers were throwing the kitchen sink in. The new contract limits what the repairer is liable for.”

Moody also raises concerns about Health and Safety implications; for example, the requirement to assign two productives, using welders or cutters, in the case of extensive repairs. Harrell says that on jobs requiring more than 100 hours work, the company’s engineers would agree a plan with the repairer and that two productives would not be used if there was a safety risk.

WNS has a network of 286 repairers. It has just taken on the Liverpool-Victoria network and plans to appoint a further 50 repairers over the next few months.

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