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Volume 8, Issue 1        January/February 2006

Field of Vision
    from the editor

ccumpston@glass.com

 

The DTs
by Charles Cumpston

When I was growing up, one way an adult could scare you was to say that you were going to get the DTs. This stands for delirium tremens and is associated with alcoholism. A person’s hands shake and make him/her look like a nervous wreck.

What made me think about this was how nervous many of the people at Diamond-Triumph Auto Glass must be while the company is undergoing investigation by the FBI for insurance fraud. Having this kind of disruption going on has got to be nerve-wracking.

We hear a lot lately in our industry about alleged illegal activity. The Independent Glass Association sued Safelite Glass Corp. for allegedly illegally steering consumers through the use of its third-party administrator operation. Diamond-Triumph sued Safelite for alleged unlawful activity and Safelite, in turn, countersued. 

And then there’s the whole subculture of accusations of illegality by a number of entities in chat rooms on the Internet: Insurance companies are monopolies and, with the assistance of third-party administrators, are regularly accused of fraudulently price fixing the amounts they’ll pay for auto glass replacement. There’s also a lot of posts accusing companies of waiving deductibles illegally (and discussion of whether waiving deductibles is indeed illegal or not).

In none of these instances has it been proven that anything was done illegally. The lawsuit against Safelite by IGA was dismissed.

However, the allegations of illegal activity in our industry are becoming too pervasive to ignore.

Of course, illegal things happen in our industry. They happen every day in every industry. When an employee steals something from the company, that is illegal. And individual employees can engage in activities that break the law without the activity being an official company policy.

The most crucial question about alleged illegal activity in our industry today is steering. Is steering occurring? And, if it is, is it actually illegal? Are companies committing insurance fraud to get auto glass replacement work from insurance agents? The answer varies by geography and custom.

These are tough times in our industry, and it’s easy to blame outside forces for a company’s lack of success. It’s another thing to accuse a competitor of doing something illegal when what it’s doing is being innovative within the bounds of justice.

It would be nice if everyone played by the rules. But who defines the rules? When your competitor is more innovative and thinks up a new angle, but doesn’t break any “rules,” it can only be accused of good old capitalism.

Acting illegally is something else, however. We are a nation of laws and any time someone in our industry, be it a renegade employee or the top management team, acts illegally in the market, the entire industry is hurt.

Granted, someone who is acting illegally is probably not concerned about the best interests of the industry. But those of us who do care about the industry and its long-term health have an obligation to try to see that illegal actions are stopped and those who are doing them are brought to justice.


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© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.