If you asked for advice, you would seek it from a reliable source. To go ahead without it is usually ill-advised. It pays to do your research. Due diligence. Just like asking for recommendations on a suitable restaurant, we trust the experience and opinions of others; if you knew whether a restaurant was good, bad or indifferent you would base your decision to go there, or not, on that information. Similarly, if a friend bought you an experience at a restaurant, you would expect them to have looked into the matter in the same way. For example, if that restaurant had poor reviews on Trip Advisor your friend might have inadvertently poured custard over your main course.
In this context, your windscreen has cracked; it needs fixing. Who do you call?
If you have adequate cover in place (usually a Fully Comprehensive policy will cover most glass breakages) you simply get in touch with your insurance company. However, we all know, insurance companies don’t fit windscreens. Of course they don’t; windscreen companies do. Which one do you use? Which one can you use? This decision has been made for you by your insurer. It’s designed to make this part of the process easier for you and ultimately, it’s better for the insurer to have a deal in place with one company. Simple. Above 24-hour nationwide coverage for its clients it is probably the most economically viable arrangement for them.
Let’s have a closer look at the windscreen companies nominated by your insurer. Typically, it might be Autoglass; Auto Windscreens or National Windscreens. These are the big three. The nationals. There are others but they either haven’t been around as long as the big three or are structured differently. For example, Nationwide Windscreen Services is a joined up network of independent subcontractors.
Would you choose one of the aforementioned windscreen companies? Or would you prefer to nominate one yourself? The plain and simple answer is: you can, but unlike the glass that might need replacing, it isn’t so transparent. The autonomy is there before you insure your vehicle. Do you have a say in who your car goes to for repair in the event of an insured loss? Very much so. Given that you must be given “appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible form so that you can make an informed decision about the arrangements proposed,” you clearly do. Did your insurer – or broker – take steps to make you aware of the salient points of that proposal? If there was some form of ‘click here to confirm you have read and understood the terms’ gateway en route to the checkout, probably. Was it clear enough? Probably not. The Financial Conduct Authority guidelines state that [financial] markets need to be “honest, fair and effective so that consumers get a fair deal.” They do so for the benefit of all parties on both sides of the transaction. They ensure the business is acting fairly and that the consumer gets a fair deal. Given the presence of a specific requirement in the FCA Handbook: ICOBS 6.-1 Producing and Providing Product Information, why is the question of who replaces your windscreen not being asked before insuring against the risk? Should the onus be on the consumer to ask the appropriate question, or the proposer? The relevant section of the handbook states what needs to happen, so if your preference is to choose who works on your car, the matter needs to be clearer before you decide whether you want to accept that proposal or not. The matter of what will happen in the event of your windscreen cracking should be pre-disclosed in no uncertain terms. In some cases, the repairer is named. Perfect. Or is it?
What if the nominated repairer isn’t quite up to it? What if they are not experienced in dealing with the nuances of what is known to be a specialist job? It might be that the car is a marque of distinction; a supercar; a hypercar; a rare classic or vintage car which would require the expertise of someone with experience of working with that type of car. Surely this needs to be discussed before pulling the trigger to shoot down an off-the-shelf motor insurance policy? Insuring a classic Carrera might be no different to a modern Mercedes on paper but in the event of a loss both cars cannot be treated in the same way when it comes to repair. When insuring a Porsche, if the Key Facts stated that you can take the car to a Porsche specialist of your choice, the policy would probably have all but sold itself to you. But what if the repairer was one of the aforementioned monolithic names? Would you be comfortable with that prospect? One way to help you make that decision would be to simply look them up; this is, provided of course, that the proposing insurer is actually naming that company. By using an ambiguous blanket term of ‘approved’ doesn’t tell you who it actually is. If it’s Fred in a Shed with a Bag of Tools, it needs to be clear that it is. By saying ‘our approved repairer’ doesn’t tell you anything. It might be a company like Nationwide Windscreen Services who subcontract the work out to a smaller firm in your area which deepens the mystery of who will knock on your door. What if it was a company you would rather not use if given the choice? What if you have already had a bad experience with them? What if the company your insurer now sending to replace the windscreen on your pride and joy had 55% of their reviews online rated overall as poor? It’s somewhat awkward if this is what you agreed to when you accepted the quote in the first instance.
Take Stuart. He has a Porsche. When his windscreen cracked, he thought it would be a simple process of get it replaced and the insurance company will pay for it. He called his insurance company and was given a Glass Claims Helpline number which, when he dialed it, took him directly to National Windscreens. After a brief chat about the situation he was is, he established that National Windscreens were offering him a pattern part; not a genuine Porsche windscreen. It also became clear that the person to whom he was speaking was not familiar with the model his car, a 993. He asked if they had anyone there who was experienced in working on 993s and he got the impression that they weren’t as confident as someone who was. Stuart went back to his insurance company and expressed his concerns adding that he would rather the work was done by a Porsche windscreen specialist, particularly given the well documented issues around 993 windscreen replacement. Initially, they said no stating that they had confidence in National Windscreens’ ability to replace windscreens. Stuart drew their attention to the poor rating they had on Trust Pilot. 63% of the reviews were rated as ‘bad’. He went a step further and referred to Indeed, and employment related search engine and highlighted that 24 of the 58 reviews (from former employees) rated National Windscreens one star out of a possible five. Stuart demonstrated that had he had know this information when the policy was proposed to him, he probably would not have accepted.
Reviews are subjective. They are often not representative of the reality. However, from a consumer point of view the person representing that business, is the business and the testimonial therefore, will be based on that experience. One thing we cannot argue is that many reviews are questionable. Some are also irrational. The Great Wall of China has more than 9,000 Google Reviews, with an average rating of 4.2 stars. Not bad for an ancient wonder of the world. But you can’t please everyone. “Not very tall. Or big. Just sayin. I kinda liked it. Sort of,” wrote one vistor of the structure, which stretches thousands of miles. Another complained, “I don’t see the hype in this place it’s really run down and old … why wouldn’t you update something like this? No USB plug ins or outlets anywhere.” But reviews help others make decisions. Consumers use them to vet their options. Nobody wants custard on their main course, so if there’s any way they can safeguard against it, a customer review might just be what tips the decision for or against.
We want to feel secure in our decision-making processes.
Very few people write reviews. It’s a very small percentage; something like 15 people out of every 1,000 on average. Should we be relying on these people if we’re part of the other 985? What if they’re mostly true? Auto Windscreens do very well in their Trust Pilot rating: 77% rate them as ‘excellent’ and 15%: as ‘bad’. Similarly, 66% of Autoglass reviews are rated as ‘excellent’ and 12%: bad. Nationwide Windscreen Services (56% bad) and National Windscreens (63%) don’t fare so well.
Where the reviews are left also makes a difference. Facebook and Google Reviews are among the other popular review platforms. They are not just indicative of the reviewer, but some will allow images to be uploaded giving a broader assessment of the circumstances. Many reviews are also capricious and often say more about the author than the vendor. Perversely, if the numbers are pointing to the wrong end of the ratings scale, isn’t that more telling?
We can write off a smaller percentage of reviews as indiscretions or published disgruntled customers, or even malicious (from competitors for example) but when the swell of opinion is telling you not to use that service, why would you let someone railroad you into doing so?
If who works on your car is important to you, pertinent questions should be asked before policy inception although this in itself is not often easy depending on who you are speaking to or that the policy is an off-the-shelf package. When triggering an insurance claim you find yourself restricted by freedom of choice (in terms of who replaces the windscreen) or how much the settlement is (such as policy capping or increased excess) it’s prudent to have that conversation before accepting the proposal. Make that informed decision. It’s all very well saving a few quid on the cheapest quote, or adding another vehicle to a multi-car policy, but does the product give you what you want it to in the event of a claim? These all become very awkward questions later on, and whilst there is a way to get around those restrictions, it’s far easier to have it all in place beforehand.