By Tony Rand, managing director, Vamco
I’ve been in the motor trade for almost 25 years, but even I was shocked to discover that Drive Assist’s collapse left around 100 bodyshops waiting in vain for around £7 million in fees.
As an important link in the com-mercial chain, it is up to the claims management and outsourcing business to provide a solution to this problem and we have a responsibility to ensure this does not happen again.
A number of bodyshops have already gone into administration simply because they cannot afford to write off the money they have lost.
We are outsourced motor claims management specialists, but have never sought or taken ‘referral fees’ from our networks of repairers.
From today, all incoming payments intended for repairs will go straight into a special account operated by Vamco’s legal arm, Kingsley Law Ltd.
We’re able to do this because last month we became the first organisation in our sector to operate an in-house law firm after winning an Alternative Business Structure (ABS) licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Everyone in our industry knows change is needed, and greater transparency is essential, but people are waiting for the Competition Commission to conclude its investigation.
To me, though, any company wishing to distance itself from the cowboys and the sharp practices needs to act now, not wait 18 months to see what conclusions are drawn and which recommendations are made by the commission
I also think it’s vital that reform is not seen to be imposed from above.
We’ve seen what’s happened in the banking sector when the pressure for change comes from outside, and as a result, the public trust which has been lost is not restored.
We need to restore trust between insurers, claims management companies, bodyshops and even parts suppliers, because it has been eroded by a relentless focus on margins.
Vamco embraced the ABS concept because we didn’t think the traditional structure of using solicitors’ panels worked well for customers – or us.
Now we hope our guarantee of ringfenced monies will give bodyshops and fleet managers the certainty they require.