Car repairers hit out at spread of 'dodgy' work done to save costs

Motorists beware: Terry Flanagan shows a smashed car to Tania Mihailuk (right) and O'Bray Smith. Picture: Jane Dyson
Motorists beware: Terry Flanagan shows a smashed car to Tania Mihailuk (right) and O'Bray Smith. Picture: Jane Dyson

TERRY Flanagan says that he sees a lot of dodgy repair jobs at his smash repair shop at Penshurst.

The main losers are the car owners, he says, who are victims of the disarray in the car repair industry.

He lays the blame at the door of rampant and unregulated insurance companies and a government which refuses to act.

"It's a mess," he said.

"The insurance companies want the cheapest deal, so they run their own shops which don't always do top quality work.

"Small business is getting bashed big time here by insurance companies and the owners are denied their choice of repairers.

"I'm always getting cars whose owners are saying they have not been fixed properly."

But he said the problem could be fixed if the state government would implement recommendations from a recent inquiry into the motor vehicle repair industry.

During the six-month inquiry the bipartisan Select Committee on the Motor Vehicle Repair Industry found that poor quality vehicle repair practices were putting motorists at risk and that a major imbalance existed in favour of insurance companies over smash repairers.

A total of 21 recommendations and 12 findings were made, the most important of which included the licensing of motor vehicle assessors to ensure quality, updating the code, providing smash repairers access to the NSW Small Business Commissioner, and ensuring that insurers did not prevent motorists from exercising their choice of repairer if their policy allows it.

Mr Flanagan was joined recently by Labor candidate for Oatley, O'Bray Smith, and the Opposition spokeswoman on fair trading Tania Mihailuk, to call on the NSW government to provide a guarantee that recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry to improve road safety for motorists would be implemented before the state election next year.

"Smash repairers and motorists are demanding a fair and transparent industry that prioritises road safety over cost, and it is time for the NSW government to take action to ensure that only roadworthy vehicles are driven on our roads," Ms Mihailuk said.

"Smash repairers have spoken loud and clear on this issue: they are being forced out of the industry by insurance companies giving preferential treatment to some repairers based on cost rather than quality."

Ms Smith said that St George motorists deserved the right to be able to choose a good repairer.

A spokesman for Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason-Cox said the government was considering all the recommendations, and a "whole-of-government response" would be provided "at the earliest opportunity".

The inquiry was initiated by Labor with the support of the industry.

The committee received 77 submissions and held two public hearings, taking evidence from 24 witnesses.

The government must respond to the recommendations by early January, 2015.

Oatley Liberal MP Mark Coure said that he was meeting local smash repairers about the situation.

"Inaction by the previous government has resulted in many motorists raising these issues with my office."

See related story on concerns supported by bipartisan parliamentary committee which found ‘‘a significant number’’ of vehicles were receiving poor quality repairs, ‘‘potentially increasing safety risks to road users’’:

Do you think changes are needed in the smash repair industry?