Garages in 'poor repairs' warning
Car repairers are being forced to cut corners because of insurance company pressures to save money, industry insiders have warned.
The Northern Ireland Bodyshop Alliance (NIBA), which represents more than 200 workers from 50 independent garages, claimed lives were being put at risk by the questionable practises of some insurers.
Sean Bradley, NIBA chairman said: "Unless Stormont intervenes in the local repair market and looks at the questionable practices of certain insurance companies, we could see a major fatality on our roads caused by poor repairs."
NIBA's membership is predominately made up of owner-run bodyshops and accident repair centres.
In some cases it was claimed they had been instructed to fix damaged vehicles with cheap, replica parts instead of those made by the car manufacturer.
Concerns were also raised that customers were being offered below-market values by insurers when the vehicle had been written off after a crash.
Others were not told they could choose their own garage and did not have to use the insurer's chosen repair outlet.
Mr Bradley added: "My members also tell me that, increasingly, they are being put under pressure to accept less favourable terms to repair vehicles and they worry about the effect this could have on safety and quality."
He said most independent traders were scared to speak out for fear of losing business.
"All we want is a fair and transparent commercial environment, a balanced relationship with insurers and the right to do what is best for our customers - the local motorist," he said.
"For us, that means repairing a vehicle to stated manufacturer standards for a reasonable price.
"We know that the insurance industry is already the subject of investigation, but while the main focus of this has been around the cost of insurance and premiums to consumers, we are worried that there is an important safety message being lost."