AGRR Magazine

New York Shop Owner Fights Progressive

By Scott Long

Greg Coccaro persists in his lawsuit against the Progressive Insurance Group.

Coccaro, the owner of North State Custom, a collision repair shop in Bedford Hills, N.Y., alleges that Progressive has been steering customers away from his shop and into its DRP and/or Concierge program by making "misleading and knowingly false and/or exaggerated statements" about the shop and other independent body shops.

In response, Progressive has hired a law firm and has filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Coccaro is suing over a regulation (steering), which is something that only a government agency can do.

However, Coccaro and his attorney are looking into whether they can still move forward with the tortious interference and deceptive business practices aspects of their case. "I feel these will stand," Coccaro told the CRASH Network in Washington, D.C. "We have to survive this motion of theirs, then we can go on," he said.

"I don't know how insurance companies get the same word track. It seems like they're all working out of the same office," said Coccaro. "They go from 'we won't guarantee the repair' to 'it will take longer if you take your vehicle to this shop, and we won't be able to look at your vehicle for seven days,' and then on to the out-of-pocket expenses and on down the list."
However, Coccaro believes that Progressive takes things even further-too far.

Coccaro was recently shown on T.V. in a piece aired by FOX 23 News in Albany, N.Y. The piece focused on insurance companies steering customers away from certain body shops.

FOX 23 News showed Coccaro playing a tape recording he made of a Progressive representative telling one of his customers, "You can choose whatever shop you want. But understand, in choosing this shop, you're accepting all the difficulties that are going to come with it. And I can guarantee you there will be."
Coccaro told CRASH, "That sounds like a threat to me."

From 2001 through 2006, Coccaro said he had only 34 Progressive jobs. "Some years I had none," he said. "Progressive is the third largest insurer in the country behind State Farm and Allstate. I've had hundreds of State Farm and Allstate repairs. That's how effective Progressive is."

Coccaro said he's had Progressive customers in his shop who, a couple hours later, phone and say they want to move their car to another shop. "They won't even talk to us," he said. "That, to me, implies that there's more being said by Progressive. They're over the top. They make innuendos and comments to make us seem like we're illegitimate and we overcharge. It's not a good situation."

It should be noted that North State Custom is a certified repairer for BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.
Other shop owners from around the country have contacted Coccaro to offer their support. "They're frustrated," he said. "But who has the money to sue? I don't. But I'm doing it anyway, because I've been pushed into a corner. I'll do whatever I can to win. And I think I will win because of the evidence I do have."

Speaking about DRPs in general, Coccaro said most consumers wouldn't believe some of the things that insurers write into these contracts. "If they only knew that the insurance company isn't guaranteeing the repair. The shop is," said Coccaro. "My warranty is better than the insurer's."

He added that a majority of consumers have no idea that insurance companies basically have DRPs simply to save themselves money, suppress labor rates, and avoid liability.

Coccaro's message to the industry is simple: "Stop crying to each other and get this in the media. I don't care if we have to hire a P.R. firm. Spend the money, or nothing is going to change."

He added, "What's happening is the grand scale theft of billions of dollars being taken from consumers and shops. And no one is doing anything about it. It amazes me."

Scott Long, an editor for the CRASH Network in Washington, D.C., has been writing about the collision repair industry for 17 years.

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