Thursday, 25 August 2011 08:56

Ridiculous DRP Requirements? Guess Why They’re Asking

Written by Insurance Insider

In a previous column, I offered some of my thoughts on the decision of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) to make the Farmers Insurance “Circle of Dependability” (COD) agreement public, and to question some of the requirements of that direct repair program agreement.

In doing so, SCRS said that “the industry is often disadvantaged by restriction of communication from participants of these program.”

I am little confused as to where the disadvantage lies? Okay, I am very confused. Explain to me the disadvantage. What would the advantage be if there were no restrictions? Shops should be deciding what is best for their individual business. That decision shouldn’t be predicated upon whether or not your competitor thinks it’s a good idea to participate. While SCRS makes a lot of good points in their press release, this is one it needs to reconsider. Go ahead and publish all of the major insurance carriers direct repair program agreements and see what it changes. Would it really improve the industry or help shops?

That said, here are a few more of my thoughts—some of which may surprise you—from an insurer’s perspective on the COD agreement and SCRS’s concerns about it.

The agreement states that Farmers has the right to inspect a shop’s books to validate and audit files to ensure proper payment and compliance with the program requirements. Why insurers continue to infuse themselves into the body shop’s business in this way is beyond me. It’s wrong and they have no business inspecting your books.

If SCRS wants to take a stand on an issue, this is an easy one. But association’s comments on this section of the agreement have me wondering, “Where’s the beef?” If you are going to call someone out, take a stand. Lead the way. Insurers will continue to ask and demand more until shops say ‘no.’

And here’s a news flash: If you aren’t following the guidelines, insurers don’t need to look at your books to find out. They have other ways of obtaining the same information. If you are committing fraud, they aren’t going to casually walk into your shop and ask to inspect the books. They will probably have their legal team subpoenaing your records. There’s no need for this clause, and it just shows they will continue to make demands until the industry says, “Enough.”

The COD agreement also says participating shops will conduct background checks on all employees and not employ convicted felons. SCRS is dead-on with its assessment: This is the most ridiculous clause I’ve ever read. Doesn’t everyone know that statistics show that nine out of 10 convicted felons prefer to work for a body shop?

Just joking. Please don’t send any (more) hate mail.

But seriously, the audacity of Farmers to prohibit shops from having a convicted felon on staff is troubling from many perspectives. I’m not advocating the hiring of mass-murderers or anything of the sort. But the fact is in some states you could be a convicted felony simply as a result of a DUI judgment. This isn’t a valid reason to not be considered for a job at a professional collision repair facility.

Of course a shop should be concerned and do its due diligence before hiring anyone who has been convicted of a felony. But Farmers should remove this clause from the agreement unless of course they would like to subject their staff to the same scrutiny. In fact, how do you know it isn’t a convicted felon from Farmers inspecting your books? What if that person happens to be an unscrupulous individual who just hasn’t been caught yet? You could potentially have a convicted-but-rehabilitated Farmers staff member remove you from the COD program because you have a similar ex-con on staff. How’s that for irony?

I’ve seen just as many thieves wearing white-collar shirts as those wearing blue-collar shirts. Insurers have no business telling you who you can or can’t hire. Shops should be judged on the product and service they deliver, and not based on arbitrary and unjustified requirements.

All that said, I hope you aren’t missing the overarching theme of my view of Farmers’ (or any insurer’s) DRP requirements: Quit whining. Quit saying it’s not fair. It’s like raising kids. Even the best kids will continue to misbehave until there is a consequence for their actions. You can threaten to ground them, tell them it’s their last chance, or insinuate a good old-fashioned butt-whuppin’ is a-comin,’ but if you don’t follow through, the antics will continue.

Until the insurers hear ‘no,’ they will only continue to ask for more, whether that more is “reasonable” or not.

“The Insider” is is a corporate-level executive with a Top 10 auto insurer in the U.S. who wishes to remain anonymous. This column reflects solely the opinion of The Insider as it offers an unvarnished look at various issues impacting the collision industry.

Got a comment or question you’d like to see him address in a future column?

Email him at Auto.Insurance.Insider@gmail.com.

To see the Farmers COD agreement referenced in the column, go to www.autobodynews.com and search “Farmers COD.” The SCRS press release about the agreement can also be found there. Search “SCRS Farmers agreement.”