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Vancouver company takes aim at 'pushy autobody shops' via new app

Last Updated Feb 28, 2020 at 12:29 pm PDT

(Source: iStock)

Your local auto repair shop might be overcharging you, but a Vancouver company says it's taking aim at the problem

Drivers can upload pictures of their damaged car to AutoBuddy and then get estimates from companies in their area

Co-founder Iouri Ovtchinnikov says the bidding war keeps shops honest

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A developer of a new app says he wants to make autobody repairs easier and cheaper for drivers – and take on dishonest body shops in the process.

Iouri Ovtchinnikov, Co-founder of AutoBuddy Technologies, said he first got the idea for a new app when he owned his own autobody repair shop.

He decided to drive around to his competitors with his own lightly scratched car to see how their rates compared to his.

He said he would have charged $700 to $800 but got estimates ranging from $400 to $1,700.

“I was really confused why some shops were doing it so low and why some shops were trying to rip me off,” Ovtchinnikov says, adding some of the shops were “very pushy.”

“It was a really bad customer experience so I decided to do something to help people that are in those situations,” he said.

Ovtchinnikov said the experience inspired him to provide a service that would experience a thing of the past.

With a friend, he developed AutoBuddy, an app that lets drivers upload pictures of minor vehicle damage.

Then body shops in the area can provide estimates, kicking off a bidding process.

In addition to saving vehicle owners time and money, Ovtchinnikov said the app keeps shops honest because those overcharging won’t get any business.

He cited a 2018 report from insurance company Aviva that estimated auto insurance fraud costs Canadians $2 billion per year, including from auto body shops lying to customers and intentionally damaging vehicles.

Bridgeport Collision in Richmond is among the first shops using the app.

Assistant manager Mike Wang said he has had two cars come in through the app in the month his company has been on the platform.

While it’s been a relatively slow start, Wang said he’s hopeful AutoBuddy will become more popular.

Wang said he doesn’t consider autobody shops overcharging to be “fraud” but the result of an “imbalance of information,” which the app can help counteract.

He called the app a “win-win” because it brings shops more customers while bringing down costs and hassle for customers, Wang said.

As for ICBC, it seems the app is getting some support as the crown corporation says ‘any apps that help to bring greater awareness to consumers are a good thing, as they help people make more informed decisions.’