Tuesday, 30 April 2002 10:00

BAR auto body reinspection program slows down

The preliminary data from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) auto body reinspection program that has found evidence of fraud in 43% of vehicles inspected is unlikely to change significantly when the final report is issued early next year, according to Dan Povey, the Sacramento-based program manager. "We have a solid six months of data in the computer. Based on my experience, the data from the first six months is usually indicative of what the final numbers will look like." 

The numbers for the first six months, through December 31, as reported in testimony to the State Senate Insurance Committee on January 30, indicated that 43% of 507 vehicles inspected in the first six months of the program "showed evidence of fraud by the auto body shop, having billed for parts and/or labor that were not supplied," according to BAR's acting chief, Patrick Dorals. These fraudulent repairs averaged $586.00 per vehicle.
The numbers are drawn from work done by 19 BAR inspectors working in two teams; Povey runs the Northern California team out of Sacramento (916-255-4391) while Art Gustafson runs the Southern team from the El Monte field office (626-575-6934). The 19 inspectors work almost full-time on the project, which has funding for one year and was established by Senate Bill 1988, sponsored by State Sen. Jackie Speier.
Inspection volume declining


Povey could not say how many additional vehicles have been inspected since the first of the year, but noted "The volume of calls from consumers has dropped off." The program was announced with a flurry of press releases and media attention, prompting many consumers to ask for the free reinspection program last summer. Today, the program is only promoted on BAR flyers and on "pump toppers" - small placards placed on the top of gasoline pumps.

"We've responded to every consumer who asked for our services," said Povey, "even if they didn't meet all program qualifications ($2,500 or more in repairs performed no more than 120 days ago). We figured if they made the effort to contact us, we should look at their car."

Forensics, not motivation

The BAR team has tried to keep the program "as forensic as possible" according to Povey. "We check the invoice against the work we can see done on the car. If it's on the bill and it isn't on the car, we write it up. We don't look for (the shop's) motivation, just evidence."

The inspections are done at the consumer's home or office and without the benefit of shop conditions. "If we find serious problems, the vehicle would be taken to a shop and disassembled for evidence," said Povey, who could not say how many inspections went that far.

BAR Offices

- Bakersfield: 4801 District Blvd., (661) 833-6304

- Canoga Park: 6800 Owensmouth Ave, #400, (818) 596-4400

- Culver City: 6035 Bristol Parkway, (310) 410-0024

- Fresno: 4124 W. Swift Ave., Suite 101, (559) 445-5015

- Oceanside: 1310 Union Plaza Court, Suite 100, (760) 439-0942

- Placentia: 701 Kimberly Ave., Suite 120, (714) 961-7940

- Richmond: 3260 Blume Dr., Suite 340, (510) 243-9410

- Riverside: 3737 Main Street, Suite 850, (909) 782-4250

- Sacramento: 10220 Systems Parkway, (916) 255-4200

- San Jose: 1361 South Winchester Blvd., Suite 206, (408) 277-1860

- South El Monte: 1180 Durfee Ave., Suite 120, (626) 575-6934