Far North panelbeaters excluded by IAG
Panelbeaters are stunned that not a single repairer in the Far North has been approved by IAG.
The Australian company controls about 68 per cent of the insurance market.
More than 250 repairers across the country have been offered contracts, but none are north of Whangarei.
The new referral list became operative this week.
Panelbeaters in the area fear loss of business, leading to a loss of jobs.
"This has come out of the blue and things look bleak for us. About 80 per cent of our income comes from IAG referrals," said a panelbeater who preferred to remain unnamed.
Collision Repair Association general manager Neil Pritchard says the association generally supported IAG's repair referral proposal last year for its intention to introduce standards, but what has happened has left the industry scratching their heads.
"There seems to be no logic. Some of the good shops have been left out. For customers it means they will be directed to Whangarei, a move that many people will find unfathomable and unpalatable," he said.
IAG has a variable pricing structure that allows $80 per hour for gold repairers, $73 per hour for tier one aligned operators and $68 for tier two aligned repairers.
Far North businesses, as non-aligned operators, are looking at $59 per hour.
"A cynic would say this smacks of cost-cutting," Pritchard said.
Panelbeaters hope that consumers realise they do have a right to decide who repairs their vehicle and they can continue to support their local tradespeople.
But without a contract, it will be up to the panelbeaters, not IAG, to guarantee the work done.
IAG head of corporate affairs Craig Dowling said the company felt it was necessary to undertake a review because of changes in vehicle manufacturing, technology and repair methodologies, "and to ensure our customers benefit from consistently higher repair standards and faster repair times".
Six repairers north of Whangarei took part in the IAG review.
"Unfortunately none of these repairers in this area met the required standards to be offered contracts as approved repairers in our network, but we have provided four repairers with individual debrief calls so that they can understand the decision," Dowling said.
"They have the potential to become approved repairers once certain criteria have been met and we will continue to review the network to ensure it meets our business requirements."
He acknowledged that customers may still choose where their vehicle is repaired.
"While we would prefer that they make use of our approved repairer network, we appreciate that this may not always be convenient in areas like the Far North.
"The safety and satisfaction of our customers is paramount.
"We ensure that our customers have access to a network of approved repairers that they can trust will provide them a high standard of service and quality workmanship."
There was no decision to exclude any region of New Zealand, he said.
One of IAG's stated key principles was to "constantly look for ways to work closely with the community - helping people at all times, not just when they have to make a claim".