Restrictive Insurer Supplier Panels anti Competition Guidelines

The South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA),  whose members are responsible for repairing over 80% of all insured repair claims in the country, has been one of the strongest advocates for a free market strategy as well as the entrenchment of client’ ‘right of choice’ of service provider.

According to Richard Green, National Director of SAMBRA, this strategy has been successful in convincing Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of the need to be more inclusive in their approach to their manufacturer approval systems.  He says unfortunately some short term insurers have not adopted a similar approach and still practice an extremely restrictive supplier base choice. “This is not sustainable as outlined and reinforced in the latest guidelines published by the Competition Commission.

Green says it is clear from the guidelines that the Commission is seeking to eliminate unclear and allegedly unfair allocation of work by Insurers in the allocation of Motor-body Repairs and looking to increase transparency and facilitate consumer choice in relation to the service, maintenance and motor-body repairs of motor vehicles.   Green says if the draft guidelines are enforced by the Competition Commission, insurers will be non-compliant and will need to entrench two key principles, namely that the insured client has the right to choose its service provider based on the clients prior experience, and secondly, the insurers may not preclude the clients from making that choice by the introduction of commonly used ‘road blocks’ such as indemnity forms.

Clause 8 of the Guidelines specifically refers to promoting inclusive and fair allocation of repair work by insurers. Green says consumer choice is limited when insurers limit the choice of approved repairers within their geographic area and enter into exclusivity arrangements with Service Providers within a designated geographic area.  They expressly say  ‘insurers must advise consumers, in clear and explicit terms, that they have a right to have the service and maintenance work, motor-body repairs, non-structural repairs and mechanical repairs of their vehicles undertaken by any service providers of their choice, whether Approved Providers or Independent Service Providers’

Green says the SAMBRA national executive welcome these draft guidelines and looks forward to some final clarity once all industry comments have been considered by the Commission. The closing date for comments to the Competition Commission guidelines was 16 March.

“Both the insured and uninsured motorist will need to keep abreast of these developments and understand their rights and the pitfalls of poor and uninformed decision making.”

He says adherence to standards is key, so from a SAMBRA perspective, the obligation to consumers is to ensure we adhere to only the highest standards. “All SAMBRA accredited member have been audited and have the correct technical skills and equipment to competently repair any vehicle on the South Africa roads.”

“The guidelines could not have come at a better time to stimulate growth and as an industry we are committed to working tirelessly with all our business partners to ensure a sustainable trading environment which benefits the consumer,” concludes Green.