The Auto Rebuilders Association of Greater Syracuse (ARA) announced it has adopted a code of ethics based on a code of ethics created by attorney and consumer advocate Erica Eversman several years ago. The code states its goal is “to ensure that consumers receive high quality repairs and to promote consumer confidence in those repairs” and emphasizes that repairers carry a large responsibility and “have the lives, safety and financial interest of the motoring public in their hands.”
“We recognized that there needs to be a significance placed on the ethics and effort expended to properly operate a collision shop in today’s challenging, consumer-orientated marketplace,” said ARA President Jeff Lyman. “At the same time, we’re separating ourselves from those shops that can’t decide who the consumer really is that leave responsibility to chance.”
Once a shop accepts the ARA Code of Ethics, it can then submit an application for shop certification, which is approved by an ARA peer review board (PRB). There is an application fee for certification and an annual renewal fee. Specific requirements are needed for a shop to be considered certified, including continued and paid ARA membership, compliance with local building codes and use of an approved paint system with computerized scale or VOC recording capabilities.
The ARA Code of Ethics provides that complaints may be filed by consumers or other shops for unethical activities. The PRB then decides if the complaint is actionable. Penalties range from sanctions, fines, orders of restitution in the form of refunds, fee adjustments, censure, suspension or removal. A provision exists where shops must file complaints if they discover unethical behavior of other shops, insurers or appraisers.
An example of a complaint could be a consumer gripe over a poor or non-quality repair, consumer fraud or unsafe repair. The PRB will first decide if a complaint is valid. Once the consumer agrees to the process, an inspection of the vehicle is scheduled. The PRB assesses the cost to re-repair the vehicle according to manufacturer recommendations with regard to function, appearance and safety as well as any other incidental costs, i.e. any rental the consumer may incur. The shop will have the opportunity to correct the repairs or pay another shop for corrective repair. Once the PRB approves the re-repair and the consumer accepts, the case is closed.
A fine may be imposed to the shop to cover the cost of the board’s activities. The shops agree to fund the process and accept the settlement terms. The decision of the Peer Review Board is final. The shops all agree to include the PRB complaint resolution option in their repair contracts as a consumer’s first option. Shops may also offer other options such as BBB or other mediation alternatives.
The ARA Code of Ethics was adopted by the ARA board of directors and can be accepted by all members who qualify. Members who agree to the code will be identified on the ARA Web site, www.araofsyracuse.org, and will be able to use a certification logo and decal in advertising. Shops who adopt the code must agree to be governed by it and are subject to administrative review by the PRB.
“As far as we know, we are the first group in the country to adopt a code of ethics. An extensive amount of time was expended to adapt the code to NY laws, but the groundwork Erica did made our job a lot easier. Our industry owes her a big thanks” said Mike Orso, ARA treasurer and New York State Auto Collision Technicians Association (NYSACTA) president.
Orso says he became interested in instituting a code of ethics after attending a meeting on accountability in collision repair in Washington, D.C., several years ago. A code drafted by Eversman was discussed at the gathering.
“At a local level, I thought we could better pull the project faster,” Orso said.
At its June 2009 meeting, NYSACTA comprised of associations from Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Long Island, Westchester-Putnam-Rockland, Staten Island, Binghamton and Utica-Rome addressed the proposed code of ethics. ARA also included a shop certification process in the code.
NYSACTA Executive Director Ed Kizenberger said he hopes the code will be adopted by repair groups throughout the state and eventually be tied in with state regulations.
“We’re proud of the effort Syracuse put forth to get this done,” he said. “It is our hope that once accepted statewide, we can approach the Department of Motor Vehicles for further acceptance. ARA’s code can then meld with NYSACTA.”
Click HERE to read Editor Jason Stahl’s column about Eversman’s proposed code of ethics.
Click HERE to download a copy of the ARA Code of Ethics.