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Volume 7, Issue 1        January/February 2005

Independent's Day
An IGA Viewpoint

Read, Think,Write, Speak
by Mark Anderson and Sue Johnson

In early November, Safelite unilaterally imposed new fees for processing claims, i.e., began taking money from invoices of non-affiliated businesses without an agreement to do so. The IGA immediately got lots of calls. Our corporate attorney reviewed the situation and believes the fees to be illegal. The IGA attorney spoke with Safelite’s general counsel, telling him as much and indicating we might take legal action.

While this legal research was going on, the IGA was talking with its members and forming a strategy. We advised non-affiliated shops that if they did not want to pay the fee, they shouldn’t. There was no legal reason they were required to. We reminded the shops they could notify Safelite in writing, but more importantly, they could take their complaint to the insurance executives who control the contracts with Safelite. Further, we suggest(ed) that shop owners could take all their complaints (steering, slow pays, short pays, etc.) directly to the insurers, if they so desired. We then published a list of some of the names and phone numbers of various insurance executives to facilitate this effort. This triggered our cadre of activist glass shops to write and call these insurers with their complaints. 

Shortly, thereafter, Safelite announced it was “suspending” the fee and returning those fees already collected.

This is a clear and concrete example of how being organized, i.e., how sharing information and pooling resources, makes a difference. This is how an activist’s trade association can and should work.

Steering is the Problem
The single biggest problem in the industry is steering. How can we be so sure? Because your job count is down substantially. We talk to small, medium and large shops all over the country every day and they all tell us consistently that their volume is down severely. They all operate in different markets. Their job counts cannot all be down for different reasons.

The auto glass industry cannot right itself unless and until there is a full frontal assault on illegal steering in the courts, followed by legislative campaigns to pass better anti-steering laws.

The IGA has organized a major anti-steering lawsuit against Safelite. It’s now or never. If this lawsuit, at this time, is not fully supported, there will be no future actions with as much promise. There are no organizations that will repeat or duplicate this effort in the future.

The new IGA is the alternative trade association. Alternative, because the IGA is not trying to represent everybody, therefore it is not afraid to make waves—even to offend if necessary. Alternative, because we not only take positions on the hard issues, but we take action. 

While fighting steering in court is our primary focus, we have announced a new Receivable Collection program whereby we will pursue receivables for any shop. We have assembled a higher level of experience, expertise and knowledge than most shops. Our receivable collection efforts are based on the laws of your state and the policy language of each insurer. We know who to go to at each insurance company and what to say. If you are an IGA member, our fee is 25 percent of what is collected. For non-members, the fee is 30 percent and if it goes to a lawyer, 35 percent. 

The IGA will soon implement an installer certification program, which will certify to the AGRSS standard. We will also certify your customer service representatives, for less money than you now pay. We think the industry needs alternatives and have developed a cradle-to-grave approach to do so.

We are also developing a program called “Tune Up” whereby we will provide experienced professionals in various fields to offer individual and customized consulting on receivable collection and billing, financial management and planning, quality/safety, marketing and customer service. 

We understand that programs are not of much value if you cannot stay in business because jobs are being stolen and pricing hits rock bottom.

How many jobs are lost for all independents when every customer is told they “…may have out of pocket costs, insurance could be cancelled, your work is not guaranteed, your installers are not certified, etc.?” What happens to a third party administrator (TPA) if the court rules TPAs can no longer use scripts which falsely represent the policies of your company?

You have nothing to lose. The independents are not without resources. The question is only whether or not the independents will pool their resources.

There are answers. There are solutions. They require an educated industry. They require being organized. This is what we will do at the IGA conference in Orlando, February 24 – 26. We organize ourselves; we will refine our strategy. We will protect our businesses and our future.

You need to participate. It’s your business. 

Marc Anderson and Sue Johnson are co-executive directors of the IGA.

Marc Anderson and Sue Johnson will be speaking at several seminar sessions at the Independent Glass Association’s Independents’ Days National Convention & Spring Glass Show. See pages 21-36 for more information

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