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The Auto Body Professionals annual convention targets salvage repair standards

Technical competence has done nothing to raise standards and everything to highlight the financial disadvantage of complying with the law.
The packed event took place at the Hinkley Island Hotel (M69 J1) and was attended by almost 500 members of the vehicle body repair industry with salvage repair standards very much in focus

The prime afternoon slot this year was given over to an address by John Dwyer, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, and a follow-up chaired panel session on salvage repair standards. This issue had been rising up the agenda again because of concerns expressed by the vehicle recycling and salvage and body repair industries. And these have really brought to the fore by two road traffic accidents in 2013 that resulted in fatalities.

Taking place in this debate were Chas Ambrose (MVDA Chairman), Roger West (BVSF Secretary General), Phil Gledhill (an insurance consultant) and a representative from VOSA. Despite the fact that it has been invited to take part, the ABI was notable by its absence.

Unfortunately Mr. Dwyer was called in to the House of Lords at the last minute, but he had pre-recorded a presentation especially for the event. He has previously been very influential in the PAS125 body shop repair standards.

Mr Dwyer’s presentation was following up on increasing concerns about the handling of motor salvage, both by insurers and after it has left their control. And it quickly became apparent that the problem was not restricted just to ‘repair standards’, but there were widespread concerns about the behaviour of insurers, with several members of the audience questioning whether the ABI Code of Practice was actually relevant any longer in view of the widespread abuse.

Readers of ATF-Pro will recall that this is exactly what we have been saying for the last 12 months. It would now seem that concern in spreading and it’s not just us.

Phil Gledhill, as one of the architects of the original ABI COP in 1996 gave a brief overview of why the COP was originally put in place. But he emphasized that its weakness was the fact that it was voluntary, there was no transparency in the system and no effective auditing. Many insurers and fleet operators don’t sign up to it, and many that do sign up interpret its requirements in a multitude of different ways. Also, many insurers hand back salvage to the original owners as part of the settlement, meaning that there is no control over these vehicles. This is probably why so many category B (break only) vehicles are now finding their way back onto public auction sites like eBay. The fact that Government has attached legal requirements to a vague voluntary agreement has just complicated matters.

Chas Ambrose, Chairman of MVDA, when asked his view, said that he understood the nature of the voluntary agreement and the complexities it introduced, but this wasn’t an excuse to effectively manipulate the truth for financial gain. Mr Ambrose said it would be more transparent to have no COP at all than to have one which was so compromised that no-one other than the insurers had any faith in it. Chas went onto say that he had been provided with dozens of examples of salvage which had clearly been miscategorised for financial gain. Not only this, but the lack of responsibility exhibited by insurers in ensuring that their most contentious vehicles (category A and B) were properly handled was nothing short of a scandal. And he went on to report to the meeting the death of 3 girls involved in a RTA while driving a repaired category B vehicle. Many of these sentiments were also shared by Roger West of BVSF.

Mrrs Ambrose, West and Gledhill all appeared to be in agreement that the ABI COP needed to be re-examined ASAP, and tightened up with greater transparency and auditing, ideas that appeared to be welcomed by the audience.

There was a lot of concern expressed by the audience about the fact that there was no control over who could buy and sell, or repair salvage. And the standards of repair. Neither VIC nor MOT were suitable for doing this. And as Ambrose said, with many category B vehicles now becoming category C, these ‘repairable’ vehicles were often very substantially damaged and there was justifiable concern about exactly how and by whom these repairs were being undertaken. And in summary, Ambrose reminded the audience that it was the priority of all attending parties to safeguard the motoring public – something that he suspected many insurers had conveniently forgotten in the dash for salvage cash.

December 2013

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