California A.B. 1200, a widely debated bill that would alter the state’s anti-steering code, was amended ahead of a public hearing for the bill slated for July 1. As amended, the bill would authorize insurers, during the claims process, to provide claimants with specific “truthful and nondeceptive information regarding services and benefits available” to them.
The amended version of A.B. 1200 eliminates the previously proposed wording, “Nothing in this section restricts the ability of an insurer to explain benefits the insurer provides as part of the claims process,” and adds several paragraphs to Section 758.5 of California’s insurance code, the anti-steering statute, outlining the need for claimants to be “informed” during the claims process.
Per the amendment, the following introduction would be added to the anti-steering statute:
Claimants whose vehicles have been damaged in accidents should be fully informed regarding the benefits and services offered by insurance companies as part of the claims process. Those benefits and services include, but are not limited to, policy terms regarding repair warranties, the type of replacement parts used in the repair, the anticipated time to repair the damaged vehicle, the anticipated costs associated with the repairs, and the quality of the workmanship.
Claimants benefit because being informed about the benefits and services offered by insurance companies allows them to make meaningful choices regarding the repair process and the automotive repair dealer to be used.
Insurers should present that information in a truthful and nondeceptive manner.
The amended version of the bill also reiterates that insurers may discuss “benefits and services” in the anti-steering code section outlining exceptions to the rule, “No insurer shall suggest or recommend that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer.”
The Collision Repair Association of California (CRA) and the California Autobody Association (CAA) both have said they would continue to oppose the bill unless it was amended, and the CRA said the term “benefits” must be removed from A.B. 1200.
“The term ‘benefits’ opens the steering door a mile wide,” CRA lobbyist Richard Steffen said. “I don’t care how you rewrite this bill, if ‘benefits’ remains in the language, steering will be sanctioned by state law.”
After the latest round of changes to the bill, Steffen reiterated the CRA’s opposition in a letter to the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee, which was scheduled to hold the July 1 hearing.
"A.B. 1200 would allow an insurer to steer claimants to the insurer’s favored shops without disclosing that it has a working relationship with these shops," Steffen stated in the letter. "A.B. 1200 is a bad business model for consumers."
In another letter to the committee, CAA Executive Director David McClune said the bill should be held in committee until the complex issues surrounding steering in the state can be dealt with properly by legislators and the California Department of Insurance, which is working on its own set of anti-steering regulations (click HERE to read more).
"The CAA is very concerned that A.B. 1200, as proposed, would instead allow insurers to legally ‘steer’ the insured or claimant to an insurer preferred repair shop even after an informed consumer has clearly made a choice as to where the vehicle should be repaired," McClune’s letter stated.
CRA President Lee Amaradio said that insurers will have a “death lock” on the shop selection process if the bill passes.
To read the bill, click HERE (proposed additions to the anti-steering statute are in italics).
Click HERE for a previous story about the bill.
Click HERE to download a copy of Steffen’s letter to the committee.