It’s Now or Never: A Proposed Code of Ethics for the Collision Repair Industry - BodyShop Business
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It’s Now or Never: A Proposed Code of Ethics for the Collision Repair Industry

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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

People are funny. Most of the time, if something bothers them, they just complain about it and do nothing.

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We all know why, too: It’s easier to whine than actually do something to address what we’re whining about. Taking action is the rougher road to choose. That’s why there are monuments built and history books written to memorialize those who actually get off their duffs and effect change.

A round of applause is due, then, to those body shop owners and other industry folks who attended an Accountability for Collision Auto Repair meeting at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in October to review a proposed code of ethics for the collision repair industry. They each could have thought of a million reasons not to go – too many issues at the shop, can’t afford the trip, my kid’s in the school play, etc. But they’re action-takers. And they also have the good sense to know that to improve things for their shops, they need to improve things for the industry as a whole.

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The code of ethics was drafted by attorney Erica Eversman, who’s well known throughout the industry as a consumer rights advocate and an expert on legal matters involving body shops and insurance companies. She drafted it with the right mindframe: I’m not a collision repairer, this is just a starting point, feel free to criticize it and/or make changes to it. But the important thing is that she did it. She took action.

Some of the industry people present thought the proposed code of ethics was too complex and should be simplified. Others only felt that the wording needed to be tweaked here and there. Still others felt that there were “too many cooks in the kitchen” and perhaps a smaller group of representatives should be selected to revise it or else the process might drag on too long. While some progress was made, the meeting concluded with everyone deciding to go home and examine the proposed code of ethics more thoroughly with employees and/or members of their local association and then meet again in the spring of 2008 to finalize it.

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The thing about the proposed code of ethics is that it, like a lot of things in life, is completely voluntary. Recycling’s voluntary, too, but if you choose not to do it, the planet may suffer. Being nice to people is also your own choice, but chances are if you aren’t you won’t have many friends. The bottom line is that a lot of things come down to a choice, but you must be willing to accept the potential negative consequences of your actions – that will impact you and potentially impact others.

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Let’s think about some other choices you, as a body shop owner or manager, are faced with on a daily basis: performing a repair procedure you feel is necessary but the insurance company doesn’t, billing for or not billing for parts you didn’t install on a vehicle, signing on or not signing on to an insurance company’s direct repair program. It’s a free country, but are you willing to take a dent in your shop’s reputation, be prosecuted for fraud or stick to the terms of a DRP contract?

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Never before in this industry’s history are we feeling so strongly the negative consequences of our actions. That should give anyone choosing not to follow a code of ethics pause for reconsideration. The time we have left to fix things depends on the person you talk to, but most feel the window of opportunity doesn’t extend past the next two years. There is a sense of immediacy out there, and for good reason.

And what better time to become an action-taker than the new year? Make a promise to yourself to make 2008 a year of actually “doing” and not just “saying.” Follow the example of others in the industry who know the clock is ticking. Some of the decisions you make may be painful, and action you take may put a crimp in your time, but this industry cannot wait any longer.

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Jason Stahl, Editor
E-mail comments to [email protected]

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