Manufacturer Warranty: Windscreens

 

 

I replaced a windscreen for an Audi dealer, however, there was nothing wrong with the glass. I asked what the change was for, and it was pointed out that there was an issue with the automatic rain and light sensor. So why was the windscreen cited as the issue?

In his report, the investigating Audi technician concluded that the sensor was not functioning due to the car having a non-genuine windscreen replacement; the (aftermarket screen in it was made by AGC Automotive). As the car was to be sold whilst still under manufacturer warranty the investigation ended there, and could not be resumed until a genuine, Audi branded glass was in place. I duly obliged. However, shortly into the strip-down I discovered what the cause of the issue really was: a damaged rain sensor. The previous installer had damaged the circuit board inside (there were screwdriver marks in the casing).

The car in question was registered in 2016, so much of its warranty would have still been in place; just as long as any parts replaced were authentic, Audi branded.

Rain Sensor 2

Windscreen Rain Sensor

 

Another similar situation unfolded when a Volkswagen main agent was investigating a sensitivity issue on a rain sensor on a fairly new Golf; the owner said the automatic wipers didn’t seem to react as well as he though they should. The VW technician noted the windscreen, an aftermarket version by Saint Gobain (Sekurit) and quickly surmised that it was the cause of the problem. I went along to give a second opinion.

The first place to look for obvious things that could be wrong with a poorly functioning rain sensor is the rain sensor module. I removed the rear view mirror assembly and immediately saw that the rain sensor was not seated properly in the mounting bracket. A push and a click later, the wiper sensitivity was restored to optimum level. However, VW did tell the Golf owner that if there was an issue with the rain sensor (or windscreen) whilst the car was under manufacturer warranty, it would not be covered owing to the non-genuine windscreen in the car.

Whilst these examples may seem excessive, windscreens can be much more complex than the two highlighted here. With radio antennae; heater elements; GPS hardware; Lane Departure Warning sensors; Autonomous Braking hardware; Head Up Display and more, the windscreen is no longer just a piece of glass shielding the car’s occupants from wind and flies. The best available parts, especially if the car is still under warranty (or the more technology connected to the glass) will always be what the vehicle manufacturer endorses.

 

Minding the ‘A’ Pillar Gap

 

 

 

Is it necessary to remove the ‘A’ pillar trims when replacing a windscreen. For most older, rubber fit windscreens: probably not. However, if you were replacing a bonded windscreen by the book, most definitely: yes.

Windscreen replacement is evolving at a rapid rate. This evolution however, is focusing on a fast fit culture to save time and money. So why is it important to remove the ‘A’ pillar covers, or trims?

Removing the windscreen: the trims are very close to the bond line. When cutting through the cured polyurethane – and whichever cutting method is used – there is risk of damage to the trim, or the trim covering. Some trims may even be touching the polyurethane [PUR] and have adhered to the moulding, or fabric covering.

A pillar trim gap

Too close for comfort

When fitting – or replacing – the windscreen, it is good practice to check for good contact by shining a torch up and down the ‘A’ pillars from inside the car. This is almost impossible to do with the covers in place. Also, if there is any ooze, you can tidy this up to prevent contact with the pillar trims.

'A' pillar trim removed showing proximity to edge

‘A’ pillar trim removed showing proximity to edge

A lot of firms and fitters are using trim protectors to prevent damage to these items, and the advent of fibre cutting wires has further reduced this risk. It does not however mean that the next time the windscreen is replaced any damage will be avoided as there is no emphasis on checking for proper contact; how can you, when it is behind a cover?

Annoying Sales Call Assassination

Quote

 

 

 

Mancunian bloke: “Can I speak to the business owner?”

Certainly. What’s your call in connection with?

“My name’s Gary and I’m calling from The Business Consultants. It’s a quick business enquiry about…”

[I interrupt his introduction] I can help you with that; do you have a registration number?

“What for?”

Your car…

“What about my car?”

So it’s not your car?

“What car?”

For someone who said it was a quick business enquiry, you’re dragging your feet a bit. How about a model and year?

“You what, mate?”

The car. What model is it?

“Whose car?”

Do you even know, yourself?

“Know what?”

Whose car it is?

“Why are you asking me about a car?”

…because you’ve called a windscreen replacement business and I cannot help *you* unless you help *me* identify the vehicle.

[he hung up] Job done. Killed him.

Leaking Windscreens are NOT Covered.

 

 

 

A trade customer – an independent garage – had a car in for service. They were also asked to look at a water leak in the front of the vehicle which turned out to be a poorly fitted windscreen. Water was dripping into the cabin from above the rear view mirror. The garage called me in to remove and refit the windscreen.

After a quick pre-inspection, there was also another problem: the windscreen itself was delaminating and was showing severe separation (of the sandwich construction). The glass was also extremely brittle (light pressure on the outer layer was displacing water from within the glass and PVB layers). Whilst the successful removal and refitting of the windscreen was still viable to eliminate the leaking issue, the glass itself was not fit for purpose, and thus unsuitable for reuse. A recommendation that glass should be replaced was relayed back to the vehicle owner.

The car owner contacted his insurer and explained that his car had a leaking windscreen. He claimed that they (the underwriters) were sympathetic and said they would ‘honor’ him with a new windscreen in the circumstances. Unless he has something exclusively written into his policy which covers him for the poor workmanship of a previous windscreen installer (before or during his ownership) leaky windscreens are not construed as damage, and therefore, not covered.

The following day the garage called to let me know that the windscreen was about to be replaced by the car owner’s insurer (or their nominated repairer).

My guess is that the call (from the car owner) to the insurance company would have been diverted to the nominated repairer. If the owner did state that the windscreen is leaking, is the repairer acting fraudulently? Was the onus more on the owner not to initiate contact with his insurer for an issue for which he was not entitled to be indemnified? Or was the insurer negligent?
On paper, the car owner got a new windscreen (worth well over £700) and the repairer delivered according to their service level agreement. However, the windscreen was not damaged. It was leaking. Leaking windscreens are not classed as damage, and therefore not covered by insurance.

Who’s to blame in this instance?

(Insurer’s name, the car owner’s name and the VRN have not been revealed to avoid litigation).

Windscreen Claims: Know Who You’re Dealing With

 

 

 

 

When a windscreen repair or replacement company says they can direct bill insurance companies, or that they’re ‘insurance approved’, there’s something else you should know.

Insurance companies do not like dealing with multiple suppliers. It’s far easier to deal with one two or three nationwide repairers which in turn makes dealing with any claims a much more manageable task for them. Typically, those repairers will be Autoglass, Auto Windscreens and National Windscreens. None of these companies use subcontractors or a supplier network. They operate in their own individual ways using their own employed staff. The exception to this used to be AA Autowindshields (now acquired by and operated by the same parent company as Auto Windscreens) who, in an attempt to cover areas in which they did not have a presence, would appoint a local company as a sub contractor to act on their behalf. Contracts are designed on service delivery, coverage and price.

Autoglass parent company Belron also operates (among its other businesses) Glasscare which acts as a price mechanism designed to profit from those who use it, and also to act as a (price) comparator in the interests of their sister windscreen fitting concern. The Supplier Invoice Control Program ( “SICP” ) allows smaller companies (those who do not have direct billing arrangements with the insurers for whom Glasscare are acting as agents) to invoice insurance companies for windscreen (and glass) repair and replacement jobs. The SICP system is a price regulator, and will also take steps to ensure that the claim is genuine. Each user of the system is required to input details specific to each claim – or job – before a prescribed rate is given. The rates are often questionable, but remain subjective to purchase price (of parts) and each individual business in terms of their size and operation. As its name suggests, the control program is tailored around the arrangement Autoglass has with each respective insurer. It does not entitle anyone using the system (other than the nominated supplier, Autoglass) direct access to any of those insurers. By this, the claim of having to ‘direct bill’ insurance companies is not true. Another false claim is for anyone – other than the prevailing preferred repairer – to claim they are insurance approved. Whilst Glasscare will occasionally and periodically audit its users, no checks are carried out on the work itself.

National Windscreens also operates a similar system. Whilst the brand is essentially nationwide, the company is made up of smaller independent companies who operate under the National Windscreens banner. Another similar network of suppliers quite new to the industry is Nationwide Windscreen Services. This is a group independent companies covering designated and predetermined areas of the country. Whilst National Windscreens or Nationwide may be better qualified to an insurance approved claim, it still does little more than delegate tasks to sub contractors who remain as third parties throughout.

There are no exceptions to the direct billing and insurance approved claims. There are however, some companies who do have a direct billing, or nominated supplier arrangement with some insurance companies, such as Silver Shield Windscreens and Catlin Insurance and Nationwide Motorglass and Hastings Insurance.

Buyer Beware: Glass Cover

 

 

Are you having difficulty getting your insurance company’s preferred repairer to fit a genuine ‘OE’ replacement windscreen for your car? Is the windscreen company waiting to see if the underwriter will authorise your request?

 

First and foremost, before you go reaching for the latest version of the Consumer Rights Act legislation as you prepare to refer the matter to the ‘Insurance Ombudsman’, you should have a look at what you agreed to before policy inception; it usually states very clearly what the outcome will be be in the event of a windscreen claim.

Should you be paying a supplement for a genuine windscreen?

In a nutshell, no. You should not be making up the difference if your preference is for an ‘authentic’ part, not unless there is an explicit exclusion stated within your Policy Schedule, or Key Facts. Unless you have agreed to pay the difference for OE parts when the insurance terms were proposed, the insurer nor the repairer cannot charge you – the policyholder – the difference between an aftermarket, or ‘copy’, windscreen and one supplied by the vehicle manufacturer.

The onus is on you to ask these questions before you accept the proposed arrangement when shopping around for your motor insurance.

The Cost of Someone Else Paying Your Excess

 

 

 

Insurance companies implemented a policy excess system in order to deter gratuitous claims. However now there is a culture which could be using this deterrent to encourage the very thing it was designed to curb.

How somebody else paying your excess could be costing you.

In insurance, the policyholder contribution, or the ‘excess’, is the amount you have to pay if you make a claim. Without an excess, claims would increase dramatically and, ultimately, the cost of insurance would rise. It is a studious measure to deter people from making frivolous or unnecessary claims for minimal damage which would, invariably, inflate the cost of insurance. It is also helps to prevent fraudulent claims. This article focuses on that small, yet significant aspect of car windscreen (and glass) claims: the excess.

Who pays?

Windscreen Excess Amount

Cash Notes

In a nutshell, a windscreen repairer offering to pay your excess is vying for your business. By offering to cover a policyholder’s contribution, they are trying to attract custom, plain and simple. However, given that the average excess amount is circa £75.00, the amount would seem too great to write off; it would need a claw-back somewhere, surely. Where does the buck stop? If the billing is carte blanch, the repairer might simply add the ‘waived’ amount to the final invoice before billing the insurer. There may even be some creative billing whereby fictitious constituent clips, peripheral parts or out of hours charges will be added to cover the shortfall created by offering the insured party a freebie. Some busier (or even desperate) repair companies may even absorb the impact based on either the volume of work this kind of marketing might be generating, or that it is seen as something doing (and better than standing around scratching their proverbials). Whichever way you want to look at it, or any business attempts to justify it, knocking off around 50-quid distorts the market and ultimately alters the true value of repairing or replacing a windscreen. Per contra, windscreen repair and replacement companies are not the only culprits of this perfidious practice.

Secondhand car sellers.

Selling a car with a damaged windscreen or poorly repaired stonechip could prove to be a deal breaker. It may also take a huge chunk out of the seller’s profit margin as the cost is usually not covered by their car trader policy. Some sellers for example will offer a £50.00 discount suggesting that the buyer could claim for a new windscreen on their insurance after buying and subsequently insuring the vehicle. Others might even promise to pay the excess when – or if – the windscreen is (eventually) replaced. Of course, morality aside, to initiate an insurance claim for damage which occurred before policy inception is tantamount to fraud. The system however, is open to this kind of abuse and much of this type of activity goes on undetected.

Overall, the motor insurance industry is extremely competitive; motor insurance providers are relying more and more on high volume sales which in turn enables them to offer cheaper rates to the consumer. Conversely, every change in an individual’s circumstances will have a bearing on the cost of their insurance; age, car type; postcode, usage, where the car is kept; previous claims; driving convictions and more. These are all significant factors in calculating the cost of insuring motorists. An increase in the number of claims made will also be collated to profile different motorists, and calculate the risk of insuring them based on that data.

Is your claim necessary? If it is, ask yourself what the overall implications would be if someone was distorting the claim amount for their own gain. It would be incredibly short sighted to satisfy your thinking if the answer was for fiscal reasons. If you are saving the excess payment; the repairer is gaining the claim amount, and the insurer ultimately is indemnifying the loss, there can be no complaints when there is a premium hike when the policy lapses. Now rethink the previous statement in reverse. Is the insurer subsidising a transaction?

Ask yourself, would you still be making the claim if you were paying the excess yourself? Better still, ask the repairer why they would ‘lose’ or waive a significant part of the final bill in replacing a broken windscreen. If you’re not paying, who does?