During the hour-long meeting in January, repairers, suppliers, industry experts and consumers shared concerns regarding the collision repair industry.
“We were able to express some serious concerns relative to consumer safety and economic well-being,” said Barrett Smith, owner of Auto Damage Experts (ADE). The 20 attendees included Smith; Ray Gunder of Gunder’s Auto Center; David Stewart of Stewart Auto Repair; Charlie Rodriquez of Color Recon; Chance Smith of Crash Depot; and Attorney Brent Geohagan.
Smith said two consumers also attended the meeting to share their experiences in regards to insurance denials and underpayments of recommended repair procedures and quality replacement parts.
One of Smith’s consumer clients, Mrs. Orr, talked about the difficult time she had getting her car repaired and the re-repair that was necessary. “It was a battle every day for this consumer to get her car repaired properly,” said Smith. “She had made numerous complaints to the Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Insurance, neither of which were much help to her.”
A customer of Gunder’s Auto Center also attended the meeting and shared her story about the poor repair performed at an insurer’s Direct Repair Program (DRP) shop.
One of the concerns the industry group addressed with Putnam was in regard to a revised automotive policy in Florida by one of the major national insurance carriers. The wording was somewhat changed and ultimately approved by the state of Florida. Smith said the issue was that the policy now states that the cost of repair or replacement that is owed is determined by that insurance company wherein it states in part “as determined by us.”
During the meeting, Smith said they informed Commisisioner Putnam that this was not keeping with past policy wording as approved in Florida and places far too much authority over the insurer while leaving the consumer in a very vulnerable position. “We’re hopeful Florida state representatives will look into this further,” he said.
“We also spoke about aftermarket parts usage and how they weren’t truly like kind and quality and not crash tested,” said Smith.
David Stewart of Stewart’s Auto, along with his daughter Jenna, brought with them a box of thousands of pages of documented unpaid procedures his shop had provided but the services weren’t compensated. Smith said that the group shared with Commisioner Putnam that repairers are subsidizing some customers’ repairs virtually out of their pockets where there is no legal obligation to do so.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of good quality, honest and ethical body repair providers who are doing that—providing the best service they can to their neighbors and retaining their good reputation for workmanship and quality and service in their communities and the insurance companies are taking full advantage of that,” said Smith.
In most cases, he said consumers are unaware of what’s taking place. “The insurance companies literally save billions and the body shops are losing billions,” said Smith. “When the insurers refuse to provide payment for a procedure, some [repairers] are not providing it and the consumer may be placed in harm’s way and be totally unaware.”
Smith said the commissioner listened intently and reviewed the provided materials. “He promised to look into his department's performance in oversight as well as recent changes in auto policy provisions that may not be in the best interest of Florida policyholders,” said Smith. “Mr. Putnam's time and attention was greatly appreciated and all are hopeful that something positive will result from this and future meetings.”