British Columbia

Auto glass shops upset with ICBC cost-saving changes

The Automotive Retailers Association of B.C., which represents a majority of the province's glass repair shops, says big changes to the discount ICBC gets will mean businesses close and workers get laid off.

Automotive Retailers Association of B.C. says ICBC changes to glass repair policy will hurt businesses

Kelly Dempsey, who works at Rapid Auto Glass in Coquitlam, removes a windshield from an SUV. He's worked at the shop for 16 years and says he's not personally worried about the ICBC changes. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The group representing auto glass repair shops in B.C. says ICBC's dramatic increase to the discount it gets on repairs, along with other changes to glass repair policy, will mean shops go out of business and workers get laid off.

The Automotive Retailers Association (ARA) of B.C. claims the hike to ICBC's discount from 11 to 25 per cent that came into effect this week is more than the industry can bear and was implemented without consultation.

"It will mean margins for hundreds of independent businesses will drop below five per cent, and, in some cases, drop to nothing."said ARA president Ken McCormack, adding that apprentice positions, "which are vitally needed to secure the industry's future," will be the first to get cut.

ICBC has been struggling to get costs down and faces massive financial losses, a situation Attorney General David Eby has described as a "financial dumpster fire."

Along with the discount increase, McCormack and the ARA claim that a requirement that shops use the least expensive windshields could mean same-day service is harder to accomplish, leaving motorists without their vehicles for longer.

Kelly Fleming, who owns Sun Creek Auto Glass in Surrey, said the changes have altered his personal financial outlook. He said he had been planning to get two new trucks for the shop, a newer vehicle for his wife, and larger house, but now all of those plans have been dashed.

"I'm telling you right now, I'm really broken up. I'm losing sleep at night," said Fleming. "I don't know who I'm going to lay off, or what I'm going to have to do, but I'm going to tell you right now, this is pretty bad."

Kelly Fleming, owner of Sun Creek Auto Glass in Surrey, says the announced changes to ICBC policy this week will have an immediate impact on his small business. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

In a written statement, ICBC said that the changes will reduce costs and "better align with best practices."

"These changes to glass pricing are long overdue and mean ICBC will no longer be overpaying for glass replacements," the statement read.

"ICBC payments for glass repair and replacements have increased by 140 per cent over the last decade, from approximately $40 million in 2008 to $96 million in 2017, fuelled by an increase in both the number of claims being made and the average cost of those claims."

Responding to the complaint that glass customers will be left with longer waits without their vehicles, ICBC said that the claim is "completely baseless."

"The process for ordering replacement windshields and arranging appointments based on those orders, should not be impacted by the changes," the statement read.

A spokesperson with David Eby's ministry provided a statement saying "These material damage changes will result in real savings for ICBC that will help reduce pressures on auto insurance rates for customers and improve the long-term financial sustainability of ICBC."

Kelly Dempsey works to remove a windshield at a Coquitlam glass shop. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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