What You Should Know Before You File An Auto Glass Claim in FL

This article brings to light critical questions you should ask yourself BEFORE you file an auto glass claim with your insurance company.

You will learn why it is important – actually crucial to your safety and the aesthetics of your vehicle – to only use a trustworthy and experienced auto glass shop for your windshield repair, rather than just calling your insurance company to file an auto glass claim.

Reputable auto glass shops have spent their livelihoods fighting against Third Party Administrator (TPA) relationships set up by insurance companies and the largest auto glass services provider in the country.

Is there any merit to the cry of auto glass shops when they scream of unfairness and try to expose the illegal practices of insurers and their so-called TPAs?”

In this article we will spell out with as much simplicity as possible the practices (and behaviors) of insurance carriers and help you (the consumer) to determine whether you are safe when you file an auto glass claim, or windshield insurance claim directly with your insurance company.

The center of this story goes back 25 years. With its long history of mergers and acquisitions, in 1991 Safelite had made its way to the sales leaderboard of auto glass repair and replacement services – as well as windshield manufacturing – when it decided to go a step further and provide claim services (then labeled “Total Claim Solutions”) for a total of 21 of America’s top insurance companies like Safeco, Travelers, and State Farm.

Their proposal was simple: we answer auto glass claims phone calls for insurance companies and reduce their operating costs. In other words, when the customer calls their insurance company and follows the prompts for “auto glass claims” one of Safelite associates picks up the call and handles the claim.

Is this fair practice?

It didn’t matter. Insurance companies dove right in and before too long the signs of a monopoly began to surface – and these signs remain among us today.

What is a monopoly? Well, here’s a definition by www.investopedia.com:

A monopoly is characterized by the absence of competition, which can lead to high prices and inferior products and services.

Although competition is not completely absent, there is certainly an effort in place to eliminate as much competition as possible. So let’s dive in to the issue of the “absence of competition” first by examining Safelite’s practices before discussing the “inferior products and services” part of the definition by examining their services.

ABSENCE OF COMPETITION

The only way to keep this relationship legal was to work with other auto glass shops and establish a “network” of shop providers to create the illusion that this was fair practice.

Safelite and the insurance companies agreed on new “fair prices” that would be billed for services by any auto glass company entering into this agreement to participate in their “network.”

Also take in consideration that Safelite manufactures windshields and can make them for a fraction of the cost of windshields that are sold to auto glass shop owners.

In other words Safelite says “Hey, we’re answering the calls for the insurance companies. Do you want to take some of the work? We have to give some away to pretend this is all fair practice… But, there’s a caveat: you must be willing to accept ridiculously lower prices for your work. We will make you sign a contract saying that you agree to do so. We help dictate how much you can charge for your services.”

Insurance companies introduced this system by letting auto glass shop owners know that, in order to file an auto glass claim for their policyholders, they had to become part of Safelite’s network first. Feeling like they did not have a choice, auto glass shop owners nationwide signed up to these networks in order to attempt to continue to provide services to auto insurance customers.

These new network pricing agreements started to mandate new lower network prices almost on an annual basis. List prices (known industrywide as NAGS – National Auto Glass Specifications) began to drop and network pricing fell to anywhere between 40% to 55% OFF NAGS – that is 55% less than the list prices – list prices that were dropped over time.

Many auto glass shops shut down and master technicians who were shop owners had to resort to doing subcontracting work for some of the larger auto glass shops. The ones who remained in business had to drop their employees and reduce their quality standards in order to afford operating their business at a much lower pay.

This also forced many of them to start using aftermarket glass rather than Original Equipment Manufacturer glass, which also helped Safelite sell more of their inventory since they manufacture high volumes of aftermarket, less expensive glass (more on this as this article continues).

What about freedom of choice?

Customers still have freedom of choice, but that message won’t get across by speaking to a Safelite rep during a phone call made to your insurance company.

If you call your insurance company and follow the prompts to a “Glass Only Claim” you will fall on Safelite’s lap who will gladly file an auto glass claim on your behalf and recommend a shop for you should you not have one in mind.

If you have already selected an auto glass shop that is not on their list, they will explicitly tell you that you will be liable for any amount billed above the network’s accepted amount. And I mean, they will drill that into you until you are pressed with fear and, in many cases, decide against using the glass shop you had original intent to use.

Now let me be very clear about something:

No insurance policyholder (customer) will ever be billed or forced to pay any amount beyond what is “accepted” by Safelite’s network. Definitely not by working with Auto Glass City.

Even if there are any amounts billed above the network amounts, they are the responsibility of the insurance company and not of the customer. That fight is between the auto glass shop and the insurance company, and should never involve the customer.

Auto glass shops do not make their practice to collect balances from customers. They do, however, from time to time attempt to collect balances from low and unreasonable reimbursements by insurance companies.

So, the fight is not AUTO GLASS SHOP vs. CUSTOMER as Safelite will make it sound like during a phone call when you have selected an “out of network” shop. The fight is AUTO GLASS SHOP vs. NETWORK, namely Safelite.

SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT

What does Safelite gain from this network relationship?

It is quite obvious that Safelite gets plenty of business from being the ones answering the phones. They can easily steer business away from other auto glass shops and to their own service centers.

This practice has become so vicious that one insurance carrier, USAA has started to monitor and audit Safelite’s phone conversations with their customers.

In Connecticut, Safelite has fought a legal battle against this matter and lost. Safelite’s side of the argument included that asking them to offer a different shop to do the work violates the 1st amendment, their freedom of speech. Really?

The full report by NBC Connecticut about the way Safelite allegedly steers insurance policyholders can be found here.

What is the big deal? Why should I not use Safelite’s services?

We believe you should do your homework and determine for yourself, but we will help you get started.

Many online resources will highlight the “inferior products and services” part of the definition of “monopoly” that we mentioned earlier.

One of the potentially lower quality factor begins with the glass itself. Safelite manufactures their own windshields but are not considered an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). This means they do not have legal permission to manufacture windshields to the exact specifications as the original (thickness, contour, shade, etc). Their glass is considered “aftermarket glass” or Original Equipment Equivalent – they try their best.

Industrywide it is known and recognized that their glass is perceived to be thinner, less durable, and cracks much easier than any OEM manufacturer.

You can find some more details about the differences between OEM and OEE glass in this article.

What about their repair and replacement services?

A quick internet search on “Safelite Reviews” shows pretty interesting results.

If you look at the reviews on their own site, they are doing awesome. But if you look at any other site you will see the most horrific complaints.

At first look it doesn’t seem so bad.

Here’s an actual screenshot of the search for Safelite Reviews in Tampa, FL:

On the first result, they show a good rating on their own site (4.6 stars out of 5).

Second, www.consumeraffairs.com exposes very low reviews (1.3 out of 5, from 74 votes).

Third, www.yelp.com with whom Safelite even spends a lot of advertising dollars with shows them at a pretty low rating in reviews (3 out of 5).

You will also see what looks to be an acceptable rating from www.bbb.org. But if you dig into the Better Business Bureau, you see two big issues.

The first issue is the actual number of complaints Safelite receives each year on the www.bbb.org website (Better Business Bureau). It is astronomical! Although they are responding to each one of these issues (in order to keep their A+ rating with the BBB), they have had a total of 503 complaints filed with the BBB in the last 3 years.

Browse down a little bit more and you can see the number of customer reviews. A total of 119 reviews includes 110 with a negative experience.

There are dozens and dozens of websites, webpages, forums, and even insurance company customer service portals filled with customer complaints against Safelite. It is well disproportionate, even for a company of its size and stature.

The importance here is to highlight the dangers of allowing a near monopoly to develop, especially regarding something as critical to people’s safety as auto glass repair and replacement services.

Just do your homework!

Before you file an auto glass claim with your insurance company, do what Auto Glass City does! Research for the most reputable local auto glass shop near you and tell your insurance company who you have selected.

Or you can always book your services with us and we will guarantee you with the best local auto glass repair and replacement service provider in your area, including a lifetime warranty and the guarantee that you will be safe and satisfied.

Want to file an auto glass claim directly with your insurance company anyway?

If you still want to file an auto glass claim directly with your insurance company, we have compiled instructions to do it by selecting your carrier here.

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