A body shop in Portland, Ore., is accusing Progressive of steering after the insurer allegedly intimidated a customer into taking his vehicle to one of Progressive’s preferred shops.
The customer, Ryan Behnke, first had his 2007 Silverado pickup towed to the body shop at Bruce Chevrolet in Hillsboro, Ore., where he purchased the truck. Body shop manager Don Schneider then went through the normal process of opening a repair order and issuing a purchase order for the tow truck driver, the shop says.
However, things changed during a three-way call between Schneider, Behnke and a claims rep from Progressive. Behnke reportedly demanded that Schneider release his truck so that it could be taken to Doherty Ford, a Progressive DRP shop. Schneider believes Behnke was steered from his shop by Progressive, but the insurer maintains its customers have the right to choose who repairs their vehicles.
“I can tell you that Progressive has processes in place to make sure that our customers are informed of their right to have their vehicles repaired at whatever body shop they choose,” Progressive spokesperson Cristy Cote said. “We give customers information about their repair and service options so they can make the choice that best fits their individual needs.”
Cote declined to comment specifically on the Oregon incident.
Oregon law 746.280 prohibits an insurer from requiring an insured to take his or her car to any particular body shop for the repairs covered under his or her policy. However, the law does not address a claims rep offering incentives or inducements to persuade customers to have a network body shop perform the repair work. Behnke says Progressive’s guarantee of workmanship performed at its preferred shop gave him pause.
“I figured I’d be getting the better deal because there would be two people (Progressive and Doherty Ford) covering what was going to be fixed,” Behnke said.
Behnke added that Progressive didn’t pressure him or make any kind of threats in order to change his mind it was simply the added assurance of another party guaranteeing the repair work on his one-year-old truck.
Repairers consistently rank Progressive as one of the worst insurance companies to deal with for a variety of reasons, one of which is alleged steering. Schneider claims Progressive has steered customers from his shop before.
“Our assistant service manager had his father’s vehicle estimated here and had it scheduled for repairs here, and Progressive pulled his vehicle away from us,” Schneider said. “We’ve had numerous cases of steering here, but this one kind of breaks the camel’s back.”
Schneider said that he had every reason to believe that Behnke’s job was his, based on the fact that he had paid for the towing of the truck to his shop and had a verbal authorization for repair.
According to Oregon law, there is an implied contract if the owner of the vehicle directs the towing company to tow the vehicle to a particular shop. However, it is believed that obtaining a signed work order still should be one of the first things a shop does so that a definite contract is established.
Also, a shop doesn’t have to release the vehicle unless the owner tells it to do so. Even if the shop does release the vehicle, it is entitled to reasonable and necessary charges for disassembly, estimating, storage, administration, etc.