The Collision Repair Association of California (CRA) recently succeeded in getting the California Department of Insurance (CDI) to notify all California insurance companies that they are required to warrant that all non-OEM replacement crash parts are at least equal to OEM parts in terms of kind, quality, safety, fit and performance.
"This official notice was the culmination of numerous meetings with CDI, numerous letters written that required a response from the commissioner, and a press conference that was held by Assemblymember Dave Jones in which Toby Chess was a participant,” said CRA President Lee Amaradio.
The CDI also warned insurers as to the use of non-compliant parts in settlement offers.
"When non-compliant parts are used to establish settlement, the claim is paid short,” Amaradio explained. “CRA’s position is to protect the consumer and have CDI enforce the laws and regulations that require insurers to warrant that non-original equipment replacement crash parts are at least equal. Determinations of parts being equal is manifested in the claims process, prior to repair.
“We feel that categorizing tracking as the most important issue diverts attention from the real issue: insurers requiring and specifying usage of parts that are non-compliant. Currently, systems exist to track parts, but it is not done because insurers choose not to comply. The real issue is vehicle and occupant safety.”
Added CRA board member John Tyczki, “These issues are about the business of insurance, not auto repair, and we will do all we can to keep it that way. We can only hope others identify this important fact."
CRA Executive Director Allen Wood lauded all participants who made the CDI notice possible.
“I want to extend my thanks to our members and our board,” Wood said. “Many have stood up and been lightning rods while bringing these issues to the light of day. Some have felt the brunt of insurers and, in one case, a threat from a supplier. This group has put the benefit of the industry above the threat of personal consequences. This is representative of how an association should work for the good of all.”
With the national spotlight on the CRA’s actions, some repairers have apparently questioned why the CRA’s position on this issue is so drastically different than the California Autobody Association’s (CAA), who the CRA accused of taking credit for getting the CDI to act on this issue.
“First and foremost, the CAA is entitled to its position,” Amaradio said. “Its position was limited to tracking and identification of parts. The only entity that voiced views similar to the CAA’s is the aftermarket parts industry. The CRA’s position is based on the law, and before anyone makes a decision, he or she should take the time to review the regulations and statutes that relate to this issue.”
The CRA is advising repair facilities to keep the notice on hand for reference, asking that they provide insurers with a copy then file a complaint if inusrers attempt to specify usage of a part that is not equal to OEM or use such parts in settlement offers.
“It will be interesting to see how insurers respond,” Wood said. “But what will even be more interesting is how the CDI responds to insurers’ continued specification of non-compliant, non-original equipment manufacture replacement crash parts. The collision repair industry now has an opportunity to gain significant ground on this issue. The collision repair professional should be wary of knowingly installing a substandard part. The burden of determination of the compliance is that of the insurer, so repairers should keep it there. We plan to continue to push the CDI to fulfill its regulatory mandate.”