Transportation Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-739

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING REPAIRS TO MOTOR VEHICLES.

Vote Date:

3/14/2007

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/26/2007

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Senator Doyle, 9th District; Representative Guerrera, 29th District

REASONS FOR BILL:

To prohibit automobile physical damage appraisers from recommending to insureds that appraisals or repairs be performed by specified facilities or repair shops.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General, State of Connecticut

“This legislation prohibits any insurer, appraiser or adjuster from recommending, inducing or persuading any consumer to choose a preferred repair facility. The bill clarifies the intent of the current anti-steering law to prohibit insurers from attempting to influence consumer choice of repair facilities – through incentives to select a preferred shop or through comments denigrating the consumer's choice of another repair facility.”

“Your car, your choice – ought to be the watchword in auto repair. Consumers deserve to choose where a car is repaired. No insurer should straightjacket or corral consumers, forcing them to use a so-called preferred shop.”

“ Senate Bill 739 with the proposed amendment, modeled after a Rhode Island law, would strengthen the state's ability to enforce anti-steering violations, which are considered unfair or deceptive.”

“The Department interpretation of current law undercuts the prohibition on steering by allowing very unfortunate practices – insurer incentives and other subtle coercion such as requiring the consumer to bring the motor vehicle to an appraiser who happens to be located at one of the insurer's preferred repair facilities.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Bill Denya, Legislative Chair, Auto Body Association of Connecticut

“These so-called preferred shops often meet insurance company pricing demands by using aftermarket or used parts that may be inferior to those supplied by the car manufacturer. These inferior parts may compromise the safety of the vehicle.”

“Also these preferred shops comply with the demands of the insurance companies for certain labor rates which are not the “usual and customary” charges of a body shop. If you are providing a service at below cost, you are going to have to cut back on some part of the repair – to the detriment of the consumer.”

“More than forty (40) auto body shops around the state have been forced out of business in just the past few years, primarily due to unfair insurance company tactics.”

Kathryn & Stephen Metzker, Newtown, CT

“……………… I was involved in a minor car accident………. I brought my vehicle to my body shop and received an estimate for repairs.”

“A Nationwide representative contacted me. I explained the damages to him and was told that I had to bring it to one of Nationwide's preferred repair shops to obtain an estimate.”

“I received the estimate from Nationwide's preferred body shop. The estimate was considerably less than my body shop had stated. When comparing the two claims, it was evident that several items were omitted from the second estimate (from Nationwide's preferred shop). Both my husband and I spoke with the estimator from Nationwide's Repair shop regarding the differences in the estimates. We were told by the individual that the estimate was written as Nationwide would want. He further acknowledged that he “missed or left-out” several items but that would not be a problem because they would submit a supplemental claim when performing the repairs. Specifically, he admitted he omitted the grill in error, stated that fading the paint is common practice and they would add that to the supplemental claim rather than include it in the estimate, etc.”

“We clearly told Nationwide that their body shop was “low balling” the estimate to ensure we had the vehicle repaired there and Nationwide was not concerned at all.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Jay W. Jackson, Jackson, O'Keefe and Phelan, Attorneys and Counselors at Law

Speaking for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

“This proposed legislation is nothing less than a wish list for auto repair shops that hope to stifle competition and innovation within the auto repair industry.”

“This language prohibits an auto insurer from even recommending a repair shop if the question is asked by a policyholder. It hampers an insurers ability to assure quality repairs, provide valuable customer assistance and violates free speech.”

“Insurers monitor recommended repair shops in order to maintain policyholder's satisfaction. They have a vested interest in insuring that only quality repair shops perform auto repairs.”

“Also, since most auto owners are not as familiar with the repair shop options in their area, they welcome their insurer's assistance in locating a quality shop. It should be emphasized that this is all the insurer does; recommend. Insurers do not require and can not by state law require that repairs be made at a certain shop.”

WRITTEN STATEMENT FROM THE Insurance Association of Connecticut

“No insured is required to use a particular auto body shop by an insurer, as already provided in C.G.S. 38a-354. It is the insured's choice. That power to choose is made explicitly clear to the insured.”

“Many insurers do not offer a direct repair option for their insureds. Of those that do, only a small portion of the insurers' repair work is done through the program. The public is clearly exercising their right to choose a repair facility.”

“What motivation would the insurer have to recommend or suggest a repair shop that does shoddy work? Financially, the insurer would be harmed, because they would have to pay multiple times for the same repair if it was guaranteed, and would likely incur the wrath of the insured, who may take his or her insurance business elsewhere.”

“Connecticut consumers are benefiting from a highly competitive auto insurance marketplace. Insurers compete on price, quality and service in order to get and keep customers.”

TRANSCRIPT IS ON FILE

Reported by: Shirley S. Zipadelli

3/22/07