The Retail Motor Industry Federation claims that forcing customers to use a select band of repairers will mean fleet managers have to pay escalating bills and face delays as work backs up in the approved bodyshops.
But Zurich Financial Services refutes the allegation, arguing its strategy will improve standards and keep premiums down for their customers. According to the firm, policyholders are free to take their cars to non-approved bodyshops as long as their prices are lower than the recommended levels. However, the RMI believes those levels are far below the market average, and could force bodyshops to cut corners in order to make money.
RMI bodyshop services director Bob Hood said: 'ZFS appears to be deliberately restricting consumer choice by refusing to accept its responsibility as a motor insurer to cover the costs of accident damage repairs in such circumstances. ZFS policyholders should not stand for this.'
Charles Long, network manager for ZFS, replied: 'It's all about keeping costs and premiums down. We have got a large network of approved repairers around the country, which are closely managed. They are under strict service level requirements. Many of those garages are RMI members.'
The RMI believes that practices like this are not acting in the spirit of the law. The federation's legal adviser, Tim Ensor-Clinch, said: 'Contracts of insurance are quite clear. Policyholders are legally entitled to use repairers of their choice and insurance companies should meet the costs of repairs, providing those costs are reasonable.'