A TV news station in Maine, WGME 13, recently put the spotlight on steering with a special “13 On Your Side” report on how insurance companies are interfering with the relationships collision repair facilities have worked hard to build with customers.
In the report, a female customer talks about how she was “bullied” into taking her vehicle to one of the insurer’s preferred shops instead of the one she had been going to for years.
The body shop owner whose customer was steered said insurers are “scaring” customers into going to where they tell them.
“[The insurer] comes to my shop and tells me, ‘Hey, if you don’t want to join up with us, that’s fine,’” said the shop owner. “And I say, ‘I want to join up with you, but I don’t agree with how you have this written up.’”
Steering ranks as one of the top challenges body shops face when conducting daily business. Many states have anti-steering laws, but insurers either outright violate those laws or skirt them by devising clever word tracks that the law can’t interpret as steering.
Typically, when a customer files a claim and insists on taking his or her vehicle to a shop not on the insurer’s preferred list, he or she will be discouraged not to because:
The work won’t be guaranteed.
It will take longer to get an estimator out to that shop so it will take longer for you to get your vehicle back.
That shop is difficult to deal with.
That shop charges more than what other shops in the area charge, and so you may have out-of-pocket expenses.
Or the customer may simply hear, “That shop is not on our preferred list,” which many shop owners believe gives the customer the impression that shop is inferior to those on the list.
Insurers contend that they have every right to explain to their policyholders the benefits of using their preferred network of shops.