Pushing For Common Standards for Collision Repair Shops

By Dominic Mesiano

Here's a scenario few of us want to think about.

You've had an accident. In a perfect world you would have your vehicle towed to the original dealership and have its repair shop do the work. After all, you can be assured it's licensed, has the proper equipment, trained staff, properly disposes of hazardous wastes and so on.

But instead, you're miles away from the dealership, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and are being unceremoniously towed to the nearest auto body shop. You're not familiar with the area or the people who run the shop.

You're uneasy and dozens of questions flash through your mind. How much extra is this going to cost me? Is this shop dependable? Do they guarantee their work? Do they have the right equipment and parts? How well are the body repair technicians trained? Will the repairs be safe?

Here are the hard facts. There are 2,800 collision repair shops in Ontario. And while dealership collision repair shops do adhere to the strictest of standards, there are really no consistent or enforced standards out there.

Things like customer codes of practice (i.e. consumer protection), equipment, training of staff, quality of the repair, conforming to labour and environmental laws and so on, are left to the interpretation of the owner/operator.

This is bad for the consumer and bad for our industry.

So, for the past several years, Toronto and Ontario Automobile Dealers have been working with government, consumers and various other key organizations on the best ways for the collision repair industry to manage itself. The result?

New bill, new standards
On June 27, 2002, MPP Frank Klees (PC) introduced a new bill in the Ontario Legislature designed to bring much-needed standards to the auto body industry. It's called the Collision Repair Standards Act, 2002.

"The new legislation is a positive step and will mean better protection for all consumers when it comes to safety and repairs after an accident," says John Norris, Executive Director of the Collision Industry Action Group (CIAG), the largest collision repair and auto refinish trade association in Canada.

"There'll be fewer consumer complaints because all shops will adhere to strict standards and established codes of practice. For example, each will have to possess and maintain the proper equipment to perform a specific repair. Shops must employ licensed staff and must conform to strict environmental protection standards."

Norris is quick to point out that the legislation was not conceived in a vacuum. "It's the result of four to five years of ongoing efforts about industry management between government, consumers, the Ontario & Toronto Auto Dealers Association, the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario (CISCO), the Collision Industry Action Group (CIAG) and various other collision repair associations," he says.

No standards, no reimbursement The real "teeth" to the act involves the often maligned insurance industry. Klees also introduced a complementary change to the existing Insurance Act that will force car insurers in Ontario to reimburse shops for accident repairs only if they fully comply to all the standards that will be established (66% of all collision repair in Ontario involves insurance claims).

A very important reason why auto dealers endorsed and supported this legislation is SAFETY. Your vehicle must be repaired properly. There is no room for compromise - it must be brought back to its pre-accident condition, or no payment will be issued. Faulty repairs can render your vehicle a safety hazard for you as well as for others on the road.

How will the act be implemented?

An Advisory Board will set the standards for all collision repair and auto body shops in Ontario. This process is not really new - Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia currently operate in this manner and consumers there are reaping the benefits.

The TADA and OADA members fully support this legislation and realize the enormous benefits to you, the consumer, and to our industry as a whole.

(see headlines)



In the May 2006 issue you published a letter from Wendy Hillier of Aviva Canada regarding an article I had written on accreditation. Part of her letter reads, "The repair industry has been struggling on the issue of standards and accreditation for years."

I must respectfully disagree. The collision industry has not been struggling on this issue. 14 associations from across Ontario developed a comprehensive proposal to the Ontario government on self-management of the industry that included standards for mandatory accreditation.

These standards and rules had buy-in from shops across Ontario through numerous fax outs for feedback, and 25 workshops, with unanimous support from shops. We also worked closely with and had buy-in from the insurance industry.

The majority of shops that do not want to see mandatory accreditation are illicit shops who do not operate by any rules. It is also possible some repair facilities feel they already meet a higher standard and do not want to see the rest of the industry rise to that level, but this type of selfish and parochial thinking is very much in the minority.

We have been lobbying the provincial government since we presented our proposal in 2002. This may seem like a long time but all the other sectors who self-manage spent many more years achieving that goal. Other sectors had a licensing regime in place making self-management much easier.

As the next step we may have to consider going that route. Self-management of a sector is not a priority for government.We have to show the need to protect the public from illicit shops who perform unsafe repairs and do not operate by the rules.

CISCO is currently continuing the lobbying process. Just recently we met with Rob Dowler the Assistant Deputy Minister of Business Services. In order to show their support, representatives from CAA, The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, OMVIC, Consumer Council of Canada, and the Ontario Dealers Association also attended this meeting.

I would like to assure your readers that CISCO will continue fighting on behalf of the collision repair industry towards the goal of self-management. Regrettably some insurers find mandatory accreditation of the industry is not in their best interest.

Alex Szabo
Owner, Dundas Valley Collision Centre
President, Collision Industry Standards
Council of Ontario (CISCO)

(see headlines)


Dear Alex Szabo:

In my role as Chairman of the Canadian Collision Industry Forum, I am pleased to provide you my support and that of many of the key stakeholders that participate in our forum.

We know and understand the value of becoming a self-managed business sector. Taking control of the future of our industry is important for Ontario consumers and industry stakeholders as well as for key stakeholders in the rest of Canada.

We know that model works well. There is clear evidence that given the opportunity to establish a self managed program in Ontario, all benefit. Industry assumes the costs of implementation and managing it, while the Ontario consumer benefits.

If there is any further assistance I can provide you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards
Larry Jefferies
Chairman, Canadian Collision Industry Forum

(see headlines)


I am pleased to add my name in support of your initiative to have the collision repair sector become a self-managed business sector.

Each of Ontario's self-managed sectors - real estate, travel, motor vehicle sales - have dramatically improved the level of consumer protection and business professionalism. In all cases these improvements have not cost the taxpayer a dime! The costs have been borne by the sector itself. I would say that even if a sector requires initial funding in order to get started down the road to self-management, it's an investment that bears significant positive return.

It's a formula that works well, and this has been documented and supported by an independent consultant study report of a few years ago. Everyone wins when a business sector assumes responsibility for its own compliance with law: consumers, business participants, government and taxpayers.

I wish you well and if I may be of assistance in any way, please don't hesitate to call on me.

Carl Compton
Executive Director
Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council

(see headlines)

In government, change takes time

By Alex Szabo

Mandatory standards and related issues such as accreditation are on the minds of many industry stakeholders. As part of our ongoing coverage of this vital topic, we have asked Alex Szabo, Owner/Operator of Dundas Valley Collision Centre and President of the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario (CISCO) to provide us with an update on the situation as he sees it in Ontario.

Collision Repair magazine welcomes submissions on this topic from all members of industry, in every area of the country. Submissions should be sent to Mike Davey via e-mail at editor@collisionrepairmag.com.

Industry self-managed accreditation in Ontario looked feasible. During the NDP's term as the government of Ontario, MPP Brian Charlton was ready to proceed with a bill reflecting an industry-submitted environmental compliance proposal, that would see environmental regulations and permitting handled by industry. When the NDP did not get re-elected, we were back to looking for a new champion for our cause.

We continued working with the bureaucrats and advocating our position with government, when in 1998 the Hon. Rob Sampson, Conservative Minister responsible for insurance, and the Hon. Frank Klees came forward to help our industry towards self-management.Fourteen associations across Ontario sent their first representatives and CISCO was created. For the next three years the CISCO Board worked with the Ministry of Finance, insurers, consumer groups and others in developing a mandatory accreditation and self-management proposal. We consulted the collision repair industry across Ontario through 25 town hall meetings and received overwhelming support for our proposal.

With this proposal completed in 2002, it was used as the basis for a private-members Bill (Bill 186- the Collision Repair Standards Act) and passed unanimously through the house at Queens Park, on December 12, 2002 Good things and change takes time with government. The Conservative Minister of Consumer Business Services, the Hon. Tim Hudak, was unwilling to proclaim Bill 186 into law, believing that the Bill had internal flaws and unknown costs to government, and having a full political agenda at the same time, government bureaucrats were not eager to work on the Bill. Another election brought the Liberals to power and working to proclaim the Bill was CISCO's agenda once again. MPP Ted McMeeken was appointed as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Consumer Business Services. After a number of meetings with Ted it was clear he has a genuine interest and concern for fairness and consumer protection. "I applaud the work of CISCO on behalf of the Auto Body Repair Industry," says Ted.

The right thing Ted seems to understand that there are millions of dollars the government is not receiving in taxes and contributions from the underground economy, that there are environmental abuses taking place, and that the "backyard" shops that don't have needed equipment, trades-licensed staff, or for that matter ethical business practices are taking business from shops that do the right things. How can good shops compete with those who are not on a level playing field, and do not repair vehicles properly or according to the estimate? With MPP McMeekin's help CISCO met with senior bureaucrats from his Ministry to examine perceived problems that prevented the Bill from moving forward. The meeting showed us that we must convince government to either amend or develop a new Bill. Since we don't have expertise in this area, we hired The Pathway Group consulting firm to help us in certain areas. We have support and continue meeting with the insurance industry, consumer groups, suppliers and manufacturers to stand with us and ask the government to move forward.

Difficult times
I believe the timing is right to adopt our proposal. We have a comprehensive package developed by the industry that reflects our vision for the future, with overwhelming support from our industry partners. With ongoing meetings with government we believe our package will move forward. With sales in decline, now is an especially difficult time in our industry. We have to ensure that the legitimate operators who invest in their honest businesses can continue to survive and indeed, prosper.

Thanks to Collision Repair Magazine

(see headlines)


May 31, 2005

An update to the Ontario collision repair industry from the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario (CISCO) representing collision repair facilities in this province.

In 1999, representative of all local collision repair trade associations in Ontario, formally incorporated the non-profit Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario (CISCO), to represent the auto body, collision repair and auto refinish industry. CISCO had one goal - the establishment of legislated self-managed shop accreditation program. The vision of an industry-managed provincial-wide voice of professional, competent and caring collision repairers operating on a level-playing field of fairness was the motivator.

The goal was the passage of legislation at Queen's Park to put into form a Bill that would ensure self-management and a series of mandatory shop standards for equipment, legal compliance and customer service that were fair and reasonable, protected the public and encouraged good and honest operations in the industry.

Twenty-five stakeholder meetings were conducted, insurer and government organizations consulted and in December 2002, the legislature approved a private members' Bill introduced by Conservative MPP'S Frank Klees and Rob Sampson - Bill 186, the Collision Repair Standards Act (2002). Although celebrated by industry, the Act has never been proclaimed and efforts by CISCO to encourage government enthusiasm to put the Bill into force continue to be met with reluctance.

Segments of the Collision Repair Standards Act have been implemented in other legislation - provincial controls on "bandit" towing are in front of Cabinet, disclosure of aftermarket parts and full identification of repair costs to consumers takes effect July 30, CISCO standards have been accepted by other national organizations and insurance companies and municipal By-Laws have adopted CISCO's standards as their own. Despite these successes, we still have not achieved the industry dreams of a self-managed provincially mandated program.

We want to move forward with identifying to government the advantages of the implementation of Bill 186, and need your help. Consultants, lobbyists, meetings and efforts to attract other levels of support are expensive, and we are asking for your contribution to CISCO, to allow us to help our industry. We have to gain control and direction over our industry. We have invested our lives and our children's future into our shops, only to watch the backyard, illegitimate shops take our business away. How can we compete with shops that do not pay taxes, and perform improper repairs? Others have controlled and made decisions that have not always been in our best interests and we have to stand together as an industry so that we can control the direction of our businesses. In 1999 you chose twelve individuals through your local associations, listed below, who have unselfishly spent many hours over the last six years away from their businesses to help all of us. Unfortunately, it takes money to take action, and while most of us have everything invested our businesses, considering the size of our current investments, a donation to CISCO is the best investment we can ever make for the future.

Please help us with your contribution of $100.00, $150.00 or $200.00 or more.
Cheques made payable to CISCO can be forwarded to:
34 Plaza Drive, P.O. Box 63051 Dundas, Ontario L9H 6Y3.

Information on CISCO can be found at www.ciia.com/provinces/ontario/cisco.html.

Thank you,
On Behalf of the Board of Directors,

Tony Canade, Wes Killins, Randy Sundell, Bill Davis, John Norris, Don Teevens
Brian Good, John Reiner, Mike Wilson, Walter Grego, Doug Rothwell

Alex Szabo
CISCO President

(see headlines)

1. What is the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario (CISCO), accreditation and self-management?

For a number of years the collision repair industry have talked about the need for greater regulation to:
(1) Improve marketplace standards
(2) Ensure safe and quality repairs
(3) Create a fair and level playing field through compliance to uniform standards for the industry and consumers
(4) Enhance consumer confidence and protection
(5) Ensure that all repair facilities comply with the laws that regulate the industry

As a result of the efforts of many industry representatives, government and insurance industry support for a collision industry accreditation and self-management program has been received.

The Collision Industry Standards Council (CISCO) comprises of representatives from industry trade associations representing repair shop owners across Ontario, as well as representatives from government and the insurance industry that have worked to develop industry accreditation standards and code of ethics. CISCO is a non-profit corporation that will run the accreditation and self-management program.

2. Does the government support the work of CISCO?

YES. The government has indicated it will pass legislation to require all collision repair facilities to be accredited and delegate management of the program to CISCO.

3. Does the Insurance Industry support CISCO?

YES. The Insurance Bureau of Canada supports accreditation, and has provided representatives and financial support to the development of CISCO.
I.B.C. representatives will be part of the CISCO Board.

4. Is CISCO a Trade Association?

NO. The Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario is an Administrative Authority consisting of representatives from known active trade associations across the province. It has been established to accredit collision repair facilities.

The establishment of a provincial trade association is planned. It will be known as the Collision Operators of Ontario (COO)

5. Do I have to belong to a Trade Association to become a member of CISCO?

NO. The Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario accreditation program is for all collision repair facilities in Ontario. A CISCO member can choose to be a member of a trade association in their area, but this will have no bearing on the accreditation of their collision repair facility.

6. How were the standards developed?

The CISCO committee reviewed existing standards and models from Canada and the U.S.A. The committee reviewed these standards with their association members.

A draft of the standards adapted by the committee was sent out to over 3,000 industry members for review. Town Hall meetings were conducted across the province.

The CISCO committee did not create new regulations. The accreditation standards reflect existing laws and regulation. The equipment standards were accepted by a vast majority of those who participated in the consultation process as the minimum requirements to complete safe and quality repairs.

7. How much will the CISCO program cost?

The annual accreditation fee will be as follows:

By employees incl. Contract workers Fee

1-3 $300
4-9 $600
10-20 (over) $900

The annual fee will be used for the list below:

(1) Validating criteria for facility accreditation (including inspections)
(2) On-going administration of the CISCO program which includes:
---(a) Assisting shops to meet accreditation criteria
---(b) Inspections & Enforcement programs to ensure on-going compliance
---(c) Dispute resolution
---(d) Communications to the industry
---(e) Industry education and training
---(f) Consumer education
---(g) Compensation Fun

8. What is the accreditation and why must it be mandatory?

Accreditation is the process of ensuring that collision repair facilities have the equipment and personnel necessary to make safe and quality collision repairs. It is also an ongoing process to ensure that collision repair facilities comply with the standards, code of ethics, and Consumer Bill of Rights.

It must be mandatory to ensure that all facilities play by the same rules and to ensure that there is a uniform level of consumer protection across Ontario.

9. What if I am accredited by another Accreditation Program, or have a municipal license?

If you are accredited or licensed by a municipality you still must be accredited by CISCO to comply with the new Collision Repair Act.

To become accredited by CISCO you must still apply to the CISCO program (and pay the application fee), and you must meet all criteria related to application processing and site inspections.

10. What if I can't comply with the CISCO Accreditation Standards?

The CISCO committee did not create new regulations. The accreditation standards reflect existing laws and regulations. The equipment standards were accepted by a vast majority of those who participated in the consultation process as the minimum requirements to complete safe and quality repairs.

It is an objective of the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario to assist industry members in meeting accreditation criteria. As the CISCO administration validates criteria for accreditation, it will advise facility owners how to become compliant to the standards.

11. What happens if I refuse to apply or operate without a license?

To operate an auto collision, auto body, auto body and refinishing or auto refinishing facilities in Ontario the repair facility must be accredited by CISCO. Shops that refuse to apply or attempt to operate without a license from CISCO may be fined and the owners may be fined and/or imprisoned.

12. How will CISCO enforce compliance?

CISCO will use the initial application forms and a series of inspections to ensure initial compliance.

CISCO will then undertake a series of random inspections to ensure continued compliance and quality of repairs. CISCO will also respond to complaints from consumers and from within the industry.

13. How will CISCO deal with unethical operations of facilities that don't comply with program?

The new Collision Repair Act will require all facilities to be accredited and comply with the program. The Act will provide that every facility owner or officer who operates without an accreditation license is guilty of an office and, on conviction, is liable to a fine of $25,000.00 if a person, or up to $100,000.00 if a corporation, or imprisonment for up to one year, or both.

14. How will CISCO discipline a shop that fails to comply?

A formal complaints and discipline process will be established. CISCO will investigate complaints or matters of non-compliance. If a facility is found not to comply it will be required to comply and be subject to penalties and possible license suspensions for varying periods of time.

15. Can shops appeal if CISCO decides to not accredit them?

YES. Shops can appeal to the Commercial Registration Appeals Tribunal.

16. Why is accreditation good for consumers?

It will ensure that all collision repair facilities provide safe and quality repairs.

It will ensure that all facilities comply with fair business practices and a Consumer Bill of Rights that provide uniform warranties. Consumers will be protected from fly-by-night operations. Consumers' right to choose a collision repair facility will be protected.

17. Do consumers get new rights?

YES. Under the new code of Ethics and Consumers' Bill of rights, consumers will get new rights to safe, quality repairs that will be protected by warranties.

Consumers will get new rights to complain about collision repair facility work and business practices.

18. What are consumer rights if they disagree with the quality of repair work done?

First, they should attempt to resolve the matter with the facility, involving their insurance agent or broker. If this fails, CISCO will attempt to mediate a satisfactory resolution.

If a mediated resolution cannot be obtained, the consumer can lay a complaint and, where appropriate, CISCO can order restitution.

19. When will restitution be ordered?

Where CISCO determines that safe and quality repairs have not been made at the usually accepted industry level, it will order remedial work or restitution as appropriate in the individual circumstance.

20. Will OEM parts be required for use in all vehicle repairs?

Collision repair shops will use the parts that have been specified by the consumer or their insurance policy.

21. Will accreditation increase auto premiums?

Accreditation should not increase auto premiums. Accreditation may provide for a reduction in premiums as the safety and quality of repairs increase.

The accreditation program may also reduce the need for individual insurance companies "re-inspection programs".

22. Will accreditation put small repair shops out of business?

Accreditation will not put any repair shops out of business that meet the minimum requirements for collision repair equipment and personnel that are necessary to complete safe and quality repairs.

CISCO has not created any new laws. It will simply require all facilities to comply with existing provincial legislation and the CISCO Consumer Bill of Rights.

The CISCO program will come into effect in two steps. During Phase 1, facilities will be inspected and will be notified of any items that are required to become accredited. There will be a period of perhaps up to six months for facilities to become compliant before Phase 2 enforcement comes into effect.

23. Why does a small shop have to meet the same standards as a large facility?

Small shops have to meet the minimum equipment and other standards that are necessary to provide safe and quality repairs. Shops without this equipment put consumers at risk

24. When will facilities need more than one license?

Facilities will need a CISCO accreditation license and will have to comply with other applicable laws like a business registration number, sales tax, GST, etc.

Facilities will also require a municipal business license where required. However, municipal accreditation programs will no longer be required when the CISCO program is operational.

25. How will CISCO help facilities to meet the standards?

CISCO inspectors will advise facilities about any compliance issues and offer assistance to shop owners to meet the standards by advising them of industry accepted equipment and standards as appropriate.

26. How will accident scene solicitation be stopped?

CISCO will investigate complaints from consumers and the industry, and levy fines and other penalties as necessary.

27. Will accreditation put an end to preferred shops?

The CISCO program cannot put an end to preferred shops. The Competition Bureau has ruled that directing consumers to preferred auto body repair shops has not substantially lessened competition.

However, the CISCO program will ensure that all repairs are safe and of high quality.

CISCO will also ensure that consumers are aware of their right to choose any accredited facility and will work with the insurance industry to ensure this right is protected.

28. Who administers the CISCO program?

The Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario Board of Directors has been established. The trade associations on the steering committee elected the initial board members.

This administrative authority will be responsible for setting accreditation standards; inspections and enforcement; a consumer and industry complaint process; education and training and other industry related matters.

29. When will accreditation be introduced?

The collision repair industry hopes that the Collision Repair Act will be passed early in the year 2000 and that the program will be fully operational by the fall of 2000.

30. How can shops provide input to shape the program?

The CISCO program is being developed by representatives of local Collision Repair Associations from across Ontario.

A series of Town Hall meetings have already been held.

31. How do I get accredited and how will the Accreditation Standards and Code of Ethics be enforced?

The first step is the confirmation of:

(1) Business Identification
(2) Employee Identification
(3) Compliance with existing Federal, Provincial and Local regulations
(4) Compliance to collision repair and auto refinishing equipment standards

This is done through the application process.

The next step requires and agent of CISCO to inspect the facility to validate compliance to the 'accreditation standards'

The facility must meet compliance criteria at both stages before it can become accredited. To ensure on-going compliance, CISCO will, periodically re-inspect "Accredited" facilities to ensure they are still compliant to 'accreditation standards and code of ethics'. CISCO may also revisit a facility as part of the complaint mediation process.

On an annual basis, facilities will be required to submit a renewal application to reaffirm compliance information.

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