ADP software glitch hurts auto body shops

Programming errors caused problems in its car-repair estimating software

ADP Claims Services Group has been forced into damage-control mode as it promises to reimburse some of its auto body shop customers for losses caused by errors in the software application they use to estimate car repair costs.

The Claims Services Group acknowledged in November that incorrect data was programmed into the underlying database of its ADP Shoplink claims-estimating software as part of the application's October iteration. The Claims Services Group is a subsidiary of Roseland, N.J.-based Automatic Data Processing Inc., a tax and payroll outsourcing company.

The claims estimating software, which can be run off a server or a desktop, relies on an ADP database that can sort through information such as a given vehicle's make, style and year and produce an estimate of repair costs.

Things began going wrong last fall, when the faulty data was entered into the database, which is distributed with the application by disk to the auto body repair shops that are ADP's clients.

The company declined to comment on the error last week. But according to a statement on its Web site, an internal investigation and audit prompted by customer complaints "concluded that changes made to [paint] refinish times on the October CD weren't supported by sufficient industry data as required by our operating policies and procedures."

ADP said it immediately notified its customers, sent them updated CDs via overnight delivery and set up a team of customer service specialists to handle any related questions. In addition, although it denies any liability, ADP this month detailed on its Web site a policy for reimbursing clients.

Damage Done

"We need those programs to run our businesses," said Charles Bryant, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance of Automotive Service Providers in Neptune. His organization includes some 250 collision-repair shops that use ADP's application.

Bryant said it was never made clear just what caused the glitches, and it required "slick people" in the shops to find them and notify ADP. However, he said, by the time ADP acknowledged its errors and made corrections, "the damage was already done."

While the reimbursement plan is a good start, ADP should do more to compensate its customers, Bryant said. "It's not a closed issue," he added.

ADP client David Rush, president of D & M Auto Body Inc. in Rockaway, N.J., said the October CD generally underestimated normal paint refinish times by 12%. He ran the disk from early October until Nov. 26, when the replacement CD was issued. Based on an average month, his losses amounted to about $7,440, he said.

Rush said he doesn't expect to be reimbursed for the losses because it would take too long to do the recalculations and rebilling.

"Most of the jobs have been paid for, and you can't call the customer and say, 'You paid me $500, and it was really $550,' " Rush said. "I didn't write it off yet. I'm not sure where to turn next. I can't even get an answer as to what caused it."

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