NI Car Repairers Warn Over Motorist Safety

NIBA Sean Bradley 1A group representing more than 200 car repairers employed across over 50 independent small and medium-sized businesses in Northern Ireland warned today that lives could be put at risk by a range of "questionable" practices which it said were being carried out by members of the motor insurance industry.
 
The Northern Ireland Bodyshop Alliance (NIBA) said it is now urging Stormont to more urgently review the car insurance sector, which it said is putting its members under increasing pressure to cut corners in a bid to save money and maintain profit margins.

 

 

NIBA Chairman Sean Bradley outlined the organisation's concerns following its annual general meeting.

"Unless Stormont intervenes in the local repair market and looks at the questionable practices of certain insurance companies, we could see a major fatality on our roads caused by poor repairs.

"All we want is a fair and transparent commercial environment, a balanced relationship with insurers and the right to do what is best for our customers – the local motorist.  For us, that means repairing a vehicle to stated manufacturer standards for a reasonable price".
 
"We know that the insurance industry is already the subject of investigation, but while the main focus of this has been around the cost of insurance and premiums to consumers, we are worried that there is an important safety message being lost."
 
Earlier this year, NIBA launched an awareness-raising campaign called 'Your Car, Your Choice', in which sought to remind those involved in a car accident that they had the right to choose their own car repairer and that they did not have to be forced, or swayed, into taking their vehicle to a repairer designated by their insurer – a practice, it said, was costing local jobs and diverting much-needed local revenue to other parts of Northern Ireland.


 
Sean Bradley said NIBA planned to meet a range of MLAs over the coming weeks to explain more about the consumer issues his members believe should be highlighted. These include:
 
•    Cases where insurers had instructed repairers to fit parts to damaged vehicles which were not genuine manufacturer parts.
•    Cases where customers had been offered below-market values by car insurers when the vehicle had been written-off following a collision.
•    Incidents where customers were charged varying excesses for using insurance company-approved car repairers over independent garages.
•    Incidents where car insurers had misinformed policy holders that they were not obliged to take their vehicle to the insurer's own chosen repair company and that they had the right to choose their own garage repairer (which is often more convenient for customers, and, in many cases, a local relationship had already been established with a car repairer).
•    Cases where local motorists had been wrongly-informed by insurers that they could not make complaints against them to the UK Financial Ombudsman Service.
 
Sean Bradley added:
 
"As an organisation which represents a significant, important group of independent car repairers, I am deeply concerned by what my members are telling me, many of whom are terrified to speak out for fear of sanctions from those insurers on which they rely on for the livelihoods.
 
"As Chair of the organisation, which supports more than 200 professionally-trained and qualified car repairers, it is my responsibility to raise these issues and I'm satisfied by the cases outlined to me that these concerns should be raised.  
 
"My members also tell me that, increasingly, they are being put under pressure to accept less favourable terms to repair vehicles and they worry about the effect this could have on safety and quality."

 

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