Irish Auto Glass Association Works to Resolve Issues Created by Insurance "Inspections"
April 19, 2011

Just as the North American auto glass industry has begun to see more and more insurers requiring "inspections" prior to authorizing auto glass work, Irish auto glass shops are dealing with a similar issue, according to Kevin Ryan of the Irish Automotive Glass Repairers Association.

"Insurance companies started the inspection process in the last year or so," says Ryan.

Ryan’s association currently is working with the Ireland Road Safety Authority (RSA) on the issue and recently met with the government agency on the topic. The association’s opposition and case against inspections has focused on safety—and has made some progress in the discussions.

"[The RSA is] in agreement with our view that driving a vehicle which has a visual impediment and is a potential danger to the public is not acceptable," says Ryan. "Neither would they condone any measures, even if legitimate, which contribute to posing a potential danger to the safety of motorists and the general public."

Laws that prohibit driving with a broken windshield also should come into play, suggests Ryan.

"We respect the insurer’s right to inspect the vehicle but those inspections are taking so long that drivers are driving around with a broken windshield," he says. "It’s illegal in Ireland to drive with a broken windshield."

According to Ryan, RSA has issued a statement to him agreeing with this claim, and he provided this statement to™: "The Road Safety Authority and An Garda Siochana (the Irish Police Force) are very clear in that a vehicle with defective glass will not pass its roadworthiness test and that any driver using such a vehicle on the public road is liable for prosecution under the road traffic legislation."

Ryan expects the RSA to take the issue to the Irish Insurance Federation, in hopes of changing the inspection policy, and believes that liability also could be an issue—if a customer was required to have an inspection, and, while awaiting the inspection, was involved in an accident.

"If a client has to leave my shop with a broken windscreen, what happens if they have an accident?" he asks.

Steering also is a concern related to inspections in the Ireland market, Ryan says—a concern that also has been expressed by independent auto glass shop representatives in the United States.

"The people carrying out the inspections happen to be the approved repairers, so what will happen is by coincidence the approved repairer would have that windshield on their vehicle," says Ryan.

Ryan has closely followed the U.S. inspections, too—and says he thinks this could be a worldwide problem.

"The issues of vehicle windscreen inspections now seem to be part of a global initiative by insurers to ensure their recommended repairers can secure the work," he says.

The IAGRA also is pushing for a renewed use of digital photography to prove that damage exists—an idea that came up during a recent U.S. industry meeting as well.

"Back in 2004, 2005 some of the insurers in Ireland were subscribing to digital photography and it was accepted by some insurers and then they rejected it later on," says Ryan. "There was no other reason for not wanting it. We put it in place to make sure fraud wasn’t taking place in the marketplace. The technology was there, so why not use it?"

He adds, "There was a 99 percent success of reducing fraudulent claims … We just said ‘look, put in the digital photography’ and it was stored with insurance-approved-outsourced firm. We sent it on and it was quite successful. There were problems, such as some people said they couldn’t take the photographs, but in most cases it worked fine."

Again, Ryan says it all comes down to safety—and his concerns about the practice of inspections echo many heard throughout the United States.

"This a consumer safety issue—it really is and it’s unacceptable," he says. "If it was a standard procedure, I’d say ‘look, this has always been in play’ but it’s really a practice designed to steer customers. It’s purely an economic procedure and that’s not good enough."

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