BACKGROUND – OPINION PERSPECTIVE
Today, most repairers provide a “final estimate,” which is based largely on the final price negotiated, but not necessarily on how the vehicle was repaired. Changes to the estimate impacts hours, parts purchase options, and other costs that affect the bottom-line price. To compensate, this habitual process is filled with cost shifting, conquesting, substitutions, and omission. This results in insufficient documentation of exactly how the vehicle was repaired, regardless of the price and historical data (which is often inaccurate).
In contrast to the current process, a “fully documented invoice” is just that – a final invoice that includes electronic documentation of exactly what was done to the vehicle and what parts were used, regardless of the price. The system introduced by Assured Performance unbuckles the “how to” from the “how much.” By separating these two elements in the final documentation process, the highest integrity of the repair can be achieved. The critical distinction is that the electronic documentation assures consumers and their insurers that the vehicle was properly repaired. In addition, vehicle manufactures now have confidence that the vehicle carrying their brands is safe and functioning, with official repair procedures properly followed. Possibly the greatest benefit to repairers, their technicians, and insurers, is that there is proof of how the vehicle was repaired as evidence to protect them, should they be faced with a lawsuit.
The fully documented invoice also supports the need and use of repair procedures, scanning and calibration, and professionally-trained technicians using the proper tools and equipment. Nothing about the invoice documentation changes the final agreed-upon price of the repair, which was established by the estimate. In effect, this new process allows a clear and distinct separation of “how to” from the “how much,” while acknowledging that both exist. This separation also falls in line with court precedence established by the NY Supreme Court ruling in the landmark case of North State Custom versus Progressive Insurance (2011).
While many insurers’ Direct Repair Programs require a “Final Estimate,” the nomenclature used indicates that it is still an “estimation” and not reflective of the total final amount even though it may be. Even more so, the final estimate most often lacks comprehensive electronic documentation that could serve as evidence and protect all parties in a court of law. Unfortunately, the current process has allowed all parties to maintain an artificial degree of “plausible deniability.” Looking forward, a change to the transparency of final work product and output of the repair is essential considering changing vehicle technology and reliance on photo estimating and other forms of digital and data generated estimates. Consumer and their insurers want to know with certainty that they got what they needed and paid for. Repair integrity is essential to the functionality and safety of the vehicle, as well as maintaining the vehicle’s value.