David, 1 - Goliath, 0

Chalk it up as a victory for the little guy. Scott Harkey, president of Windshield Glass in Greensboro, N.C., has accomplished something that many people have encouraged glass shop owners to do, but few have done. He got a large, national insurance company to pay his glass claim without bending to rules and regulations with which he did not agree.

Harkey went toe-to-toe with the insurer regarding the replacement of a Lexus windshield. Because the vehicle owner wanted OE glass with the Lexus label on it, Harkey had to go to the local Lexus dealer to get the glass.

The dealer offers a 15-percent discount off the part list price. The insurer acknowledged that a 25-percent mark-up over cost is within the "reasonable and customary" pricing guidelines, with proof of cost. The catch: the proof of cost must be submitted through the insurer's glass claims administrator, which is owned by a large, competing glass company.
Harkey, not wanting to divulge his costs to his competitor, refused. The insurer then refused to pay the claim.

"This is a battle we chose to fight," Harkey told AGRR magazine in a telephone interview.

To take on the insurer, Harkey went to the vehicle owner and explained the situation. With the customer aware of the situation, Harkey submitted his proof of purchase to the glass claims administrator, showing the dealer list price but with his actual cost whited-out. The administrator refused to pay, so Harkey called the vice president of claims at the insurance company.

When the insurance company also refused to authorize payment, Harkey threatened to file a suit in small claims court.
Though it did not come to that, Harkey did submit a letter to the insurance company earlier this month detailing his costs and requesting that the insurance company not share the information with their glass claims administrator.

"And they haven't, as far as I can tell," he said.

However, they did finally concede to pay the full cost of the replacement, albeit directly to the insured customer. Harkey received a letter from the insurance company earlier this week stating that the claim "will be handled on exception."

Pleased with the outcome, Harkey doesn't expect to have any problems collecting from his customer, nor does he foresee giving in to insurance companies that work with his competitor.

"If you're told that as a condition of payment you have to surrender your costs to your competitor, that's just not right or fair," he said, stating that he signed no contract with the glass claims department or its parent company (the competitor).

"We're a non-affiliated glass shop. We did not sign the contract with the administrator. We chose not to and it gives us better leverage when negotiating," he said.

He hopes others in the industry will learn from his experience.

"We're going to see if we can promote changes to the way glass claims are handled. Glass shops of America, stand your ground. Don't share your private cost information with your competitor. If enough shops do this, maybe something will happen," he said.

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