DECEMBER 15--SGC, the network administration arm of Safelite Auto Glass, has announced it is "suspending" a $15 fee it had imposed last month on non-network shops submitting paper invoices and plans to refund all such fees it has collected since November 1.
According to a release issued today, Safelite says that it was "pleased that more than 1,500 shops responded by contacting us to pursue electronic invoicing" and that network providers are "receiving payment approximately ten days faster than when they were using paper."
The company release also reported that many non-network shops wanted more time to investigate and establish electronic invoicing options and that is was suspending the fee for the next 80-120 days and refunding paper invoicing.
The reasons behind Safelite's implementation of the $15 fee had been subject to great speculation in the past few weeks. Some theorize it was put in place to make it more difficult for non-network shops to conduct business; others say the company was seeking new ways to reduce costs and increase income (see related story tomorrow).
But whatever the case, the fee triggered a massive reaction among non-network shops. The Independent Glass Association had raised the issue among its membership and issued a number of communications to its members and urging them to contact insurance companies to report the discrepancies and bill the insurers for the difference. "When you send someone a bill, and they arbitrarily decide "paid in full" is less than you charge, then you have a right to go over their head for your money," said IGA executive director Marc Anderson. "And that's what our members did."
"We also applaud the many insurers that were contacted who recognized the inherent lack of fairness in Safelite's actions and who, I believe, exerted pressure on them to correct the wrongdoing. Their efforts toward fair business practices are appreciated," Anderson said.
The Independent Glass Association is the country's only association of independently-owned auto glass shops in the United States. IGA has long taken what it perceives as unfair business practices by the networks to task and has made no secret of its intention to file a lawsuit in the near future against network providers allegedly involved in illegal steering.
Safelite had no response to a query from AGRR magazine/glassbytes.com on the influence the IGA exerted in getting the fee removed.
No reproduction, in print, electronic or any form without the expressed written permission of
Key Communications Inc. 540-720-5584.