Former employee turns whistleblower, firm insists it was a ‘misunderstanding’

Credit hire firm Drive Assist is at the centre of allegations that it falsified hire days to claim extra money from insurers.

In a leaked email, released by a whistleblower and seen by Insurance Times, a Drive Assist employee explains to staff how to claim two extra hire days from insurers.

The email has been sent to the ABI and insurers are currently considering their response.

Drive Assist chief executive Steve Binch said the employee who sent the email has been “disciplined” while a full investigation is being carried out.

“It will be concluded this week and we will inform you of any discrepancies. We’ve got nothing to hide, as far as we’re concerned. We’re audited by insurers on a regular basis,” Binch said.

“We’re scrutinising everything. We’ve written 125,000 cases since that email was sent. But it only affects a very small number – less than 1,000 invoices out of 125,000, if that.”

Binch said the disciplined employee sent the email after “misunderstanding” a team meeting on hire periods and losing days of hire.

Explaining the meeting, he said: “Basically, it was about hire periods and losing days of hire, when actually repair centres were telling you that vehicles were ready for collection, and they were not.”

Binch, who has written to ABI motor committee chairman Barry Smith explaining his position, believes the person who released the information was probably one of the 400 staff made redundant last year at the Staffordshire-based company, which is backed by private equity house Charterhouse.

In his letter to the ABI, Binch said that, following an initial investigation, he was “confident that the many other systems and procedures within Drive Assist have captured this unfortunate procedural error/misrepresentation”.

He added: “The board and I do not condone any process that artificially inflates hire invoice values, and Drive Assist prides itself on being one of the lower-cost operators in the sector.”

An FSA spokesman said he would not comment on potential investigations.

An ABI spokesman stated: “It will be up to individual members to chose whether they investigate it further, depending on any exposure they have to these particular allegations.

“Insurance industry members will want to make sure they get value for money and that third-party providers operate to the highest standards.”

AXA claims director David Williams said the company was considering what action was appropriate.