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SPECIAL REPORT: Collision Industry Reacts to CNN’s Story on Insurer-Repairer Issues

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Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. CST.

ST. PAUL, Minn., Feb. 12, 2015—CNN’s report on insurance-related issues in the collision repair industry aired on Anderson Cooper 360 on Wednesday, and as the video made its rounds on social media Thursday, reaction from collision repairers poured in.

Some praised the piece for bringing about consumer awareness of these issues—including the slew of insurance-related litigation that helped push the story to the forefront.

However, overall reaction was mixed.

Allison Fry of Eaves Law Firm serves as the liaison council for the plaintiffs in the multidistrict suit taking place in Florida—one of the myriad of issues covered in CNN's report. Fry told FenderBender on Thursday that her office wasn’t entirely pleased with the report, but felt it was “a good start” to increase dialogue and national recognition of the issues the collision repair industry faces today.

“We would’ve loved it to be much more extensive, but everything they said was absolutely accurate,” Fry said. “I was both angered and amused by the insurance companies and the representative they shoved in front of the camera to take the heat.”

Fry added that her firm’s suit has documented evidence of insurers forcing shops and consumers to use specific remanufactured parts, despite claims made by an insurance representative in the CNN story.

In an interview with FenderBender Thursday morning, Darrell Amberson, chairman of the Automotive Service Association, called the CNN report “harsh” and said it seemed to stop short of giving a well rounded view of what takes place in the collision repair industry as a whole.

Amberson is the president of operations of LaMettry’s Auto Body, a multi-shop operation in the Minneapolis area.

“It’s not an accurate portrayal of what we see in our world,” Amberson said, in reference to the LaMettry’s Midwest market. “There’s an implication that we’re forced to use aftermarket parts or rebuilt parts that are defective, and that insurers are forcing us to do inaccurate repairs. That’s not the case.”

Steering is an issue, Amberson said, as are unsafe repairs. But he felt the report did not do an accurate job of portraying why these issues truly occur and the many shops around the country—including those in direct repair programs—that perform safe and accurate repairs.

“Our company always takes the stance of quality first,” he said.

Amberson wasn’t alone in his critique.

One reader posted on the FenderBender Facebook page that, “I understand the insurance company’s [sic] are cutting times and trying to have us use the cheapest parts available, but the technician who repaired or should I say didn’t repair that rail chose to do a bad job. You can’t blame the insurance company on a bad repair.”

That may be true, Fry said, but she says in many cases consumers are the ones put in awkward positions of making choices they are unqualified to make, such as determining whether an insurer-suggested remanufactured part is adequate in their vehicle.

The CNN story looked at unsafe repairs performed at a Service King location in Mississippi, and had various industry experts discuss issues with remanufactured parts. It also included interviews with the attorney generals of both Louisiana and Mississippi, both of which are involved in legal action against insurers.

The CNN reporter also spoke with John A. Eaves Jr., whose suit insluced more than 500 shops.

These issues were part of an extensive feature FenderBender wrote in January.

In the end, Amberson said that raising consumer awareness was a very positive result of the CNN story, and he hopes it helps consumers be more mindful of what their rights are during the collision repair process.

Still, he wishes the report would’ve given a more well-rounded picture of the industry today.

“I thought the report almost implied that the insurers are harsh and constantly steering, and I find that exaggerated,” Amberson said. “That’s not what we see. Does it happen on occasion? Sure. Are some insurance companies more aggressive than others? Sure. But for the most part, the insurers we deal with are conscientious about it and respectful of it and try to let the customer make the decision.”

"Body shops in particular, and we here at our firm, are very pleased there has been some national coverage," Fry added. "If nothing else, it shines a lot on what's happening."

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