One of the UK’s leading dealer-owned bodyshops has criticised a new insurance company tactic as ‘a dirty trick’.
Peter O’Malley, general manager at Eastern Western Accident Repair Centre, near Edinburgh, said: “So far in 2011 business is down on the same period last year and the ‘double excess’ is having an impact.
“A customer might be expecting to pay a £250 excess and then they are told that unless they go to the insurers’ choice of bodyshop there is another £200 admin fee on top of that.
“It is in the small print, but no one ever reads the terms and conditions, so it is not until they have an accident that they find out about this extra charge. It is a big problem.”
Eastern Western is a former UK bodyshop of the year with a turnover of £2.6 million per annum. It has approvals from many manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota and Saab, and is the only Ferrari approved centre in Scotland.
O’Malley continued: “Aviva introduced this double excess and where they tread others follow. Esure have started doing it now as well.
“When customers take out these policies they do not realise it will mean that their £50k prestige vehicle will be repaired for £22 per hour. Insurers send cars to the cheapest bodyshops.
"Their repairs are inferior to ours and the customer is the loser. If you do not have properly trained personnel then you cannot make quality repairs.
“The likes of BMW and Mercedes are looking for ATA Master Technician qualifications and it is just not possible on £22 per hour.
"The only way to get a level playing field is for the Government to set a standard labour rate so people can afford to train and retool.
"We are talking about safety critical repairs so this really is a matter of life and death.”
VW said: “Volkswagen has heard of examples of insurers charging a so-called double excess and will monitor the situation carefully.
"The importance of the integrity of accident repairs should be a key consideration for anyone buying an insurance policy.
“The use of genuine parts and highly trained bodyshop and technical staff will ensure that a repair meets the required standards.
"Only in this way can a car be guaranteed to retain the safety standards of its original manufacture.
“Volkswagen Insurance carries out all repairs via the Volkswagen Group authorised network.
"We would encourage our network to communicate this to customers, thereby encouraging them to buy the right policy for them – and of course read the small print and question a supplier on the quality of repairs and use of genuine parts.”
No one was available for comment at the Association of British Insurers.