Protestors take to the streets to oppose NRMA Web site

More than 1000 protestors marched through the streets of Sydney today to oppose a Web site.

The introduction of a new Internet-based smash repair tender system by NRMA Insurance has led to public outrage by thousands of smash repairers and motor tradespeople.

In a remarkable show of defiance the workers chanted, "No more NRMA" and marched to the insurer's head office voicing their concerns about the system which they say threatens their industry and safety.

Under the new system, the insurer will seek quotes from major metropolitan smash repairers in NSW by posting photos of the car damage on a special Internet site seeking the best quote.

The Motor Trader's Association (MTA) says the system will force repairers to under quote to compete and will send them out of business.

MTA chief executive James McCall said the system will force tradespeople to take shortcuts and use inferior parts to keep their quotes down.

McCall pointed to a similar system in the US that he said led to 70 percent of all repairs being of poor quality.

"Do you think that the premiums will be any lower? That top-level premium is going to end up with a lousy repair," he said. McCall warned customers to look closely at their insurance policy in the wake of the changes.

Motor trades businesses already had started to lay off apprentice workers, McCall said.

He said 20 percent of businesses in the industry would go under while others would have to reduce staff because of the need to cut costs.

NRMA Insurance has defended its new tender system, saying the best in the industry were already moving online but acknowledged repairers may close if they can't compete with the new technology.

NRMA Insurance chief executive Rick Jackson said the Web-based tender system had been in place in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland for nearly three years, although NRMA Insurance has fewer customers in those states than in NSW.

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