SANTA ANA, CA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) in California said it has charged 53 defendants following a five-month undercover sting targeting auto body repair facilities engaging in insurance fraud. Between January and May of this year, the OCDA conducted 152 undercover operations throughout Orange County. The targets for this operation were identified through the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), which provided the OCDA with a list of 141 auto body repair facilities that have had consumer complaints within the past three years.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Because of the nature of the auto body shop industry, it attracts the attention of people who want to make a quick buck by taking shortcuts and billing insurance companies for labor never performed and for parts never used.
Many shops are not concerned about making their customers happy, because you rarely get repeat business from one client since most people don’t wreck their cars that often anyway.
So what do you need to look out for?
- Bait & Switch – They will give you a low estimate, only to wait until the work commences to spring additional issues and jacking up the price.
- They agree to use factory parts and end up substituting “after market” parts which usually don’t carry the same warranties or quality of workmanship.
- They will bill the insurance company for a new fender or door replacement and then simply patch it with Bondo.
- Since the average customer is unfamiliar with parts, they wouldnt know that a brace, bracket, support clip or channel was not replaced as promised and was merely straightened, reformed or even left off.
- Some of the car parts that should have been replaced, but were not, could even present a hazard down the road — hoses, wiring, linkage etc. Depending on the part that was damaged, a kink, pinch or scrape could result in later problems.
Before committing to a particular shop, check to see if they are members in good standing with the Better Business Bureau or on line with the local business registries like Yahoo, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc., to see what customers are saying about this shop and what their rating is.
Ask for recent references and get phone numbers to call and get their opinion of this business.
Be observant and look around. Is the office dirty and cluttered? Does the shop appear to be organized and reasonably clean? These are indicators of how the rest of the business that you can’t see is operated.
Lastly, be sure to get more than one estimate, preferably three. Most of all, don’t get into a rush, take your time, and do your homework.