Insurance Giant AXA accused of underpaying policyholder's vehicle damage claims


Northern Ireland’s largest motor insurer has been accused by the independent car repair industry of using bullying methods to control where and how much is paid for car repairs here, leading to consumer’s losing out on what they are entitled to under their policy.

A survey of over 25 repairers carried out on behalf of trade organisation, the Northern Ireland Bodyshop Alliance has resulted in the first locally available evidence of what is seen as AXA’s attempts to pay less to a policyholder who chooses to use their own case repairer instead of the repairer chosen by AXA. 

Richard Hastings, NIBA Chairman; explained the background to the survey and the findings.

“Over the years we have been regularly contacted by members of the public and car repairers concerned about the actions of AXA Insurance when it comes to making a claim after an accident.

The result of these actions is that consumers are left bamboozled by the claims process and making decisions under the stress of an accident that they later regret. 

NIBA and a similar trade body in the UK, the Auto Body Professionals publish suggested retail price guides for the car repair industry. Both guides indicate that it costs between £40 - £50 per hour to ensure that a bodyshop can repair a car correctly with access to the latest equipment, training and methods.

However AXA claim that they have entered into a volume discount arrangement with several repairers who agree to charge labour rates starting at £22.95 per hour as well as discounts of up to 10% on parts and 40% on paint.  As a result, AXA say that some of their policies do not allow coverage for car repairs to be more expensive than this.

It’s our belief that AXA do not do this in the rest of the UK and that what they are doing is uniquely affecting Northern Ireland consumers.

Faced with having to ask their customer to pay the difference themselves to use an independent garage of their own choice, the experience of the 26 garages we surveyed is that almost half of them have had to cease doing repair work when their customer is insured with AXA.

The remainder indicated that they have felt under unfair pressure to accept the below cost rates charged by AXA in order to keep staff occupied, as otherwise they would probably have to consider letting staff go we believe. This will result in the loss of many jobs in the local economy.

Another tactic AXA use is to reduce a customer’s policy excess by £100 if they agree to move to a garage appointed by AXA, 80% of garages said this resulted in the car being moved away from the customer’s choice of garage to the one appointed by AXA.

Nearly all of the garages surveyed reported that should a customer insist on using a garage of their own choice that representatives from AXA make a number of disparaging remarks about the independent garage which often has the effect of pressurising a customer to move their vehicle.

The customer might be told that the independent garage would be unable to carry out repairs to a high standard and repairs would not be guaranteed.  Although on many occasions the customer appears to be being told that they just have to use the garage appointed by AXA. 

“When AXA choose the garage, the garage is working for AXA and therefore presumably in AXA’s best interests, not the policyholder’s. An independent garage will put the customer first.”

The reality is that the customer who buys a policy of insurance is entitled to take their car to a garage of their own choice and for their insurance policy to cover the reasonable costs of those repairs. Where an insurer, such as AXA refuses to cover these costs it is the consumer who is losing out on what could be hundreds of pounds worth of work.

Richard concluded “We would urge AXA to reconsider their approach to the independent repair trade.  All we want is to repair our customer’s vehicles and be paid the reasonable costs”.

For more information about NIBA, please visit niba.biz.
 

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