Industry Responds to Investigation into Alleged Unnecessary Florida Windshield Replacements
May 1, 2013

by Jenna Reed, jreed@glass.com

Auto glass shops in Florida have disputed a local report that accuses them of "taking advantage" of state law, which guarantees a zero-deductible windshield replacement.

Tampa, Fla.-based TV reporter Noah Pransky alleges local auto glass companies are pushing unnecessary replacements onto consumers for undamaged windshields.

"A two-year 10 News investigation revealed glass dealers and salesmen around Tampa Bay soliciting customers at car washes, gas stations, large parking lots and even with robocalls," Pransky says in the recent report.

The TV station reportedly worked with State Farm on the investigation. State Farm had not yet responded to requests for comment at press time.

State senator Jeff Brandes says he'll file an amendment to review to the law, according to local reports. He wants the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to study Florida's zero-deductible windshield replacement law. Requests for comment from Brandes' office had not yet been answered at press time.

Owners of two local Tampa-area auto glass companies dispute that the Florida windshield replacement law is being taken advantage of.

Jason Fry of Cornerstone Auto Glass in Tampa, Fla., says two of the shops viewed as a part of the news report are those he knows. His company has no relation to those the news reporter calls out.

"I know all the shops on the news and in fact two of the companies I know," he says. "I personally train my guys so nobody sells chips [as windshield replacements], so we have had no problems. We have had no fault claims."

Kevin Chalmers of Red White & Blue AutoGlass in Tampa, Fla., says, "In our experience as auto glass technicians for a combined 40 years and company owners for three, these [news] statements are misleading.

"As for chips and cracks in the driver's view, we do not repair them," he adds. "The reason is that the repair does not make the crack disappear all the way; it stops the crack from spreading. Sunlight or headlights bounce off of the repair and can produce a glare in the driver eyes, impeding their vision while driving. It is also a liability for the glass company for doing a repair in the driver's line of vision."

He goes on to explain that waiting for an insurance adjuster to inspect a windshield is a long process, which can take up to a week.

"To be fair, if they are going to make one glass company wait for inspections, they should make all glass companies wait for inspections, including large corporate companies that are currently not subject to adjuster inspections," Chalmers says. "The customer is the one that is going to suffer [for lacking] a timely replacement of their windshield, and in some cases, can cause a repairable windshield to actually become a replacement windshield."

From a national view, the perspective is a bit more mixed.

"It seems all fraud is coming out of zero-deductible states. I know those states also have the lowest repair ratios in the country," says Rich Campfield, president of the National Windshield Repair Association, as well as the founder and president of Ultra Bond Inc. in Grand Junction, Colo.

"Why do they [the insurance companies] not file insurance fraud claims against the offenders and publicize it instead of punishing and inconveniencing the insureds and the entire auto glass industry? The easiest thing for them to do, and I would sure welcome it, is if the insurance industry would just stop covering windshields period. But they must be making lots of money

Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants in Sun Prairie, Wis., calls the Florida situation "a double-edged sword."

"On one hand, the shop owner wants the consumer to have the right to replace their windshield without undue out-of-pocket costs for the safety of themselves and their families," he says. "On the other hand, no-deductible states are a perfect location for insurance fraud to occur because the consumer is preyed upon by criminals that trick the vehicle owner into something they know little about.

"Florida should be commended for [its] no deductible law, but there has to be enforcement of insurance fraud laws to make it work for all Floridians," he continues. "When fraud is left unchecked, everyone pays the price."

Finally, Mark Liston, president of Glass Doctor, says he "despises" people who prey on consumers and take advantage of them.
"Channel 10 did a great job identifying people like that," he says.

He continues, "There are too many of us in the business today who have put everything we own into the business and what happened on Channel 10 should be repeated in every market throughout North America, which has fraud like this."

This story is an original story by AGRR™ magazine/glassBYTEs.com™. Subscribe to AGRR™ Magazine.
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