Dispatches, the Channel 4 investigative TV show, is looking into the car insurance industry in a new programme which looks to uncover the influence insurers and accident management companies have over bodyshops’ workflow and profit margins.
Retail Motor Law, the motor industry law firm, has helped to provide evidence for the show - Secrets of Your Car Insurance – which can now be viewed on 4oD.
Andrew Moody, managing director of Retail Motor Law (who spent 15 years working as a car mechanic and panel beater before retraining as a barrister and solicitor), said: “We showed the Dispatches team our Retail Motor Law report outlining the agreements that certain paint manufacturers and distributors enter into with insurance and accident management companies.
“They decided the subject deserved further investigation and we have been on hand to provide background information and expert opinion throughout the production process.”
The report was also submitted to the Office of Fair Trading, who passed it to the Competition Commission as part of their wider investigation into the motor insurance market.
Moody said: “I have got a huge amount of evidence; some of it was posted anonymously to my office – that gives you an idea of the culture of fear that exists. A specialist competition barrister who has seen it said it raised ‘serious competition concerns’.”
The number of bodyshops in the UK has reduced dramatically over the last decade. There are around 3,000 left and RML believes over 8% of those are likely to shut for good in 2013.
Moody said: “An unfortunate culture has developed in this country where policyholders call their insurers as soon as they have a crash. With a few clever words from a claims handler they will be steered into an approved repairer network. Most consumers are not even aware they have a choice.
“There are two good reasons why policyholders should be concerned about this – cost and safety. First, cost – there are occasions when people claim, lose their no claims bonus and pay a large excess, when that amount is likely to have paid for the repair. Second, safety – no one really knows what is under a paint job so it is important that consumers can trust the body repair industry.
“My concern is that the method and mode of the repair is being dictated by the insurer. They are in a position to say to the repairer ‘you must do this otherwise your supply of work will be cut’. That is dangerous because insurers’ interests lie in maximizing their own profits, not delivering the best quality repairs.”