Body shop owner John Ticktin is fuming mad and is accusing Erie Insurance of steering after a customer decided to go to one of the insurer’s DRP shops because Erie said the shop was "approved."
"Erie could give a s—. This is just ridiculous," said Ticktin, who owns JT Auto Service in Bethesda, Md. "I called the general manager at Erie after he didn’t call me back and told him I had just fixed my lawyer’s Mercedes and I was sure he would be glad to barter with me for his services."
Ticktin is doubly mad since he came back from his summer vacation one day early expecting to receive the vehicle on Sunday. When the customer didn’t show, he called the man who had referred her to him, and he told Ticktin that Erie had sent her to Capitol Cadillac, a local dealership.
When Ticktin actually spoke to her and asked if she had intended to take her car to him, she said she had the coordinates for his shop already programmed into her GPS.
Ticktin says he’s just about fed up with steering, having lost even 15-year customers to the illegal business tactic. He believes it’s simply a deep psychological fear that drives consumers to take their vehicles to where their insurers tell them to.
"I tell them, ‘Please don’t let them tell you where to go,’" he says. "But they tell me they don’t want to mess with their insurance companies. The insurers tell them they might get stuck with more bills or the repairs might not be guaranteed or they may not be able to get a rental car. Lies, lies, lies."
Ticktin related a story about an elderly man who pulled into his driveway in a beat-up old Cadillac. He told the man the damage to the car was extensive and he might consider calling his insurer. A few weeks later, the man returned to him in the repaired Cadillac and thanked him for the advice as his insurer had "taken care of everything."
"I said to him, ‘You mean you took my job away from me after I helped you?’" Ticktin said. "He practically ran down the driveway to get back in his car!"
Ticktin has no DRPs but has considered negotiating with insurers to do bumper and fender jobs. But he says it’s difficult given he’s a one-man band.
"GEICO’s right down the street from me, but they said they would give me so much work I wouldn’t know what to do," Ticktin said. "I told them to try me. Then they said I needed to have at least 40,000 square feet of space."
Ticktin plans on filing a complaint with the Maryland Insurance Administration. He also plans on contacting the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA) to see if any other repairers have had problems with Erie.
According to WMABA’s Web site (www.wmaba.com), Maryland insurance code states:
(a) An adjuster, appraiser, or insurance producer or employee of an insurer may not:
(1) recommend the use of a specific repair service or source for the repair or replacement of property damage to a motor vehicle without informing the claimant or insured that the claimant or insured does not have to use the recommended repair service or source;
(2) require that an appraisal or repair be made in a specific repair shop;
(3) require that a claimant or insured use a specific contractor or repair shop for a repair service or repair product; or
(4) intimidate, coerce, or threaten a claimant or insured to use a specific contractor or repair shop for a repair service or repair product.
(b) An adjuster or appraiser may not accept a gratuity or other form of remuneration from a repair service for recommending that repair service to a claimant or insured.