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The Connecticut Committee on Insurance and Real Estate had a public hearing this week on three bills dealing with steering, total loss calculations and supplements, drawing testimony from the collision repair and insurance industries.
S.B. 896 would reserve the right for an insurer to authorize any repair work beyond the original estimate before a shop could continue with repairs.
Bob Skrip, president of the Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABACONN), testified against the bill, saying it would take control over the repair away from vehicle owners and place it into the hands of insurers who have a “vested interest in limiting the scope and cost of auto repairs.”
“Insurance companies are not our customers,” Skrip said in his testimony. “The vehicle owner is our customer, and the one we ultimately need to satisfy with a safe, quality repair without third party influence from the insurance industry.”
The bill also states that if a repairer proceeds with supplemental work without insurer approval, the shop would be prohibited from collecting payment from the insurance company or any other party for the work performed.
“This means the insurance companies have the discretion to send vehicles out on the highways with defects that could cause accidents and injuries to drivers, passengers and others,” Skrip said. “Are we going to allow the insurance companies to say what private citizens can do with their cars?”
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal also opposed the bill and said that legislators could better serve consumers by developing laws that promote consumer interest in obtaining quality repairs at fair prices.
Nationwide Insurance submitted testimony in favor of the bill stating it would enhance the “transparency, efficiency and effectiveness” of the repair process and would help prevent repair fraud.
H.B. 6446 is an anti-steering measure that would stop insurers from offering special warranties or waived deductibles as enticements to insureds for using a preferred repairer. Both the Property Casualty Insurers Association (PCI) and the American Insurance Association (AIA) testified against the bill, calling it “anti-consumer.”
“Through H.B. 6446, some auto body repair shops are attempting to limit an insurer’s ability to offer an important and very popular benefit to consumers a lifetime warranty on the repair work,” said Paul Magaril, PCI counsel. “While an auto repair shop may guarantee its work, this is of little benefit to a consumer who has moved or is traveling. The warranty offered by insurers extends beyond the particular direct repair facility used by the consumer and can be used at any such facility in the country.”
AIA Vice President David Snyder echoed PCI’s sentiments, saying, “We fail to see how consumers are helped by denying insurers the ability to provide tangible service and financial benefits.”
Attorney General Blumenthal disagreed, saying that such incentives, which he called “subtle coercion” on the part of insurers, should be banned because they “undercut” the state’s anti-steering laws (click HERE to read about Connecticut’s newly enforced anti-steering measure).
H.B. 6450 would change the way insurers calculate the value of a totaled vehicle when reimbursing its owner. Insurers would have to obtain a vehicle’s retail value from two automotive industry sources, then use the higher of the two values when reimbursing an insured, ensuring that there’s “no additional cost to a claimant to replace” his or her vehicle, according to the bill. PCI said it’s seeking to amend the bill.
The Committee on Insurance and Real Estate is tasked with recommending any changes to the bills and deciding whether the state’s House and Senate should pass them.