CIC Committee Looking at How Estimates End Up on Vehicle History Reports

Pete Tagliapietra of DataTouch said many shops may be unaware of data pumps running on their shop’s computer system, extracting data for a third party.

The Collision Industry Conference (CIC) Data Access, Privacy and Security Committee in April continued its ongoing discussion related to auto body shop estimates resulting in entries on vehicle history reports.

One key point discussed at the CIC held in Oklahoma City: is the VIN being too widely shared within the industry?

“The underlying piece for us is there’s no vehicle build data” included in the VIN, committee co-chair Dan Risley said. “A lot of people assume if you have a VIN number, you probably have build data, but that is not the case.”

Pete Tagliapietra of DataTouch shared a slide showing his view of which entities in the industry actually need access to the VIN during the repair and claims process, noting “the list is not that long.” A company doing vehicle diagnostics, for example, needs the VIN in order to obtain the needed vehicle build data, he said.

“However, if I’m a dealer and I’m selling parts, I only need the last eight of the VIN,” Tagliapietra said. “What’s really important is the industry getting to the point of controlling the VIN, making sure it’s protected and information isn’t shared where it shouldn’t be shared.”

Aaron Schulenburg of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists agreed, noting one of the shops that raised this issue nearly faced litigation from a customer who assumed the shop had shared information with a vehicle history reporting company.

“He stopped that from happening, because he stopped putting the VINs into repair plans,” Schulenburg said. “He’d put it in, decode the vehicle, pull it out and not have it in there. But that’s not practical.”

Sharing the VIN as part of getting parts pricing during the estimating process is one of several theories on how merely writing an estimate on a vehicle can result in an “incident” entry on a vehicle history report; the dealers getting that information could have agreements to share that data with CARFAX or others.

Tagliapietra said another common way to capture estimate data is if there is a data pump running on a shop’s computer system, extracting data for a third party.

“Data pumps have become prolific,” Tagliapietra said. “It’s gotten out of hand, from my point of view, because the data has become so valuable. Most shops probably have a data pump, or more likely multiple data pumps, that are sucking the repair line information and personally identifiable information off of every estimate they write.”

At past CIC meetings, CCC Intelligent Solutions has said it does not share data with CARFAX. During April’s meeting in Oklahoma City, Jack Rozint of Mitchell International delivered a similar message.

Rozint shared the relatively short list of companies that receive access to a VIN through his company’s system during the estimating process. He said no VIN data is shared outside of Mitchell Cloud Estimating unless the user enables third-party integrations or EMS/BMS outputs, which a user can shut off at any time.

“If you use our estimating system in a standard configuration, as most of our users use it, without enabling any of those third-party integrations, we don’t send the data anywhere,” Rozint said. “It’s been brought to my attention there may be other information providers that, in the course of writing an estimate, bounce the VIN off a number of dealerships to get pricing information, and that just writing an estimate in another system may actually share the VIN with multiple parties that you may not even be aware of.

"But that does not happen with Mitchell Cloud Estimating," Rozint said. "If just the act of writing an estimate is causing CARFAX to get the data, I’m guessing the estimate wasn’t done in Mitchell. Now we do allow our customers to export BMS and EMS [data files] to whomever they choose. They can do that without Mitchell’s involvement. We allow our customers control of our data as they see fit for their business. So there’s things that can happen outside of Mitchell’s control, but that’s in the control of the user.”

Trent Tinsley, who co-chairs the CIC committee, said the committee has been having ongoing discussions with several vehicle history reporting companies for months, inviting them to speak, and hopes to have that happen at CIC in July.

“What we want to aim for is: can a shop explain to a customer, if they were asked, where their data goes,” Tinsley said. “That is what as a committee we are trying to work toward.”

“It’s a huge issue for consumers, and we don’t know how to explain to them how [a vehicle history company] got that information,” New Mexico shop owner Scott Benavidez told the committee.

Benavidez owns a collision repair shop and a vehicle inspection company, two separate businesses, using the same estimating system in both.

For the inspection business, his company writes a “reconstructive estimate,” showing what work had previously been done on a used vehicle based on the company’s inspection. At some point he discovered even that reconstructive estimate, with no parts ordered, would trigger a new incident report on a vehicle history report for a vehicle already repaired.

Benavidez’s concern is shared widely, based on some polling at the CIC meeting.

The committee in 2020 developed a set of five Golden Rules for those entities accessing and using shop estimate data; they can be viewed on the “work products” page on the CIC website. The goal was that by getting companies to agree to abide by the rules, the industry could deter data being used without a shop’s awareness and permission.

At CIC in Oklahoma City, attendees were asked if they feel those Golden Rules are being adhered to by the majority of their trading partners; 68% said no. Among just collision repairers at the meeting, 88% said they did not believe they were in control of their company’s data and how it’s being shared.

Schulenburg said he was surprised by that, because while he understands shops’ frustration, he thinks the data-sharing problems may be caused by a relatively few bad players.

“As skeptical as I am about the exchange of data, I believe most companies are doing the right thing,” Schulenburg said. “I think most companies doing the right thing are getting a negative implication because there are some companies choosing to make data aggregation an ancillary business model to their core function.

"Everybody in this industry should be concerned about that," Schulenburg said. "It’s impacting the view of the collision repair facility, and impacting the view that collision repairers have of products [in the industry] that exchange data. We should all be really vigilant so we can trust one another with that exchange.”

John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance writer and Autobody News columnist who has been covering the collision industry since 1988, and the editor of the CRASH Network... Read More

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