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Body shop operators deny some ICBC repair bills inflated

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Drivers facing insurance hikes of more than six per cent starting November 1st are now being told they shouldn’t blame body shops accused of charging too much for collision repairs.

The President and CEO of the BC Automotive Retailers Association, Ken McCormack, says rates set by ICBC in 2010 haven’t grown, but expenses definitely have.

“We’re not charities. We’re businesses and ICBC is responsible for in excess of 80 per cent of the value of the automotive repair business.  Are vehicles getting more expensive to repair, they absolutely are.  Are the shops the ones benefiting from it, absolutely not…. ICBC sets the rates and believe me, they monitor and check every single invoice. There’s no way that our industry could be charging more than what ICBC’s willing to pay.”

McCormack is responding to complaints from six longtime ICBC estimators who spoke exclusively to NEWS 1130.

“The shops themselves, they just do the work for what’s approved by ICBC. There seems to be a suggestion in some of this that the repair shops are reaping the benefits. I can assure you we’re not.”

He insists most body shops are barely making ends meet and overall costs have risen as much as 30 per cent over the past two years.

“Collision repair, towing and recovery side, they’ve seen a three per cent increase over the last seven or eight years.”

Annette Toth with MOVE UP, the union representing nearly 300 estimators, says more need to be hired to properly monitor Express Shops which have been allowed to control repair prices since 2001.

“And it needs to be brought back in-house. At the end of the day, if we’re paying more in repairs, we’re also paying more as policy holders.”

She adds estimators, who used to have more time to check up on body shops, are repeatedly finding evidence of over-billing.

“Oh it drives them crazy. Quite frankly, ICBC has allowed shops to charge up to 20 per cent variance which means, if a repair cost is $10,000, they can charge up to $12,000.  Why wouldn’t you if you were in their shoes?”

ICBC recently hired more estimators, but Toth says numbers have dropped since 2001 when there were more than 400.

“Our members used to be the ones that made sure if it was a $10,000 dollar repair, they paid $10,000 –not $12,000 or $15,000 or $20,000 dollars.”

McCormack insists there’s no need to hire more estimators because every body shop operator can still be audited by ICBC.

Both Toth and McCormack welcome a widespread review ordered by Attorney General David Eby over the summer.

It’s expected to address concerns being raised by frontline workers and body shop operators.

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