A New Hampshire body shop owner has taken issue with a decision made by the New Hampshire Insurance Department (NHID) regarding a complaint filed by one of his customers concerning parts State Farm required for their car.
Steve Piispanen of Keene Auto Body contends that “OE surplus” parts State Farm wrote for his customer’s vehicle violated a state law due to the parts not being “like, kind and quality” to original parts.
To illustrate the difference in certain parts, Piispanen sent the NHID three photos, one of the customer’s damaged headlamp, another of the State Farm-approved OE surplus headlamp with wires hanging out and missing components, and a third of a new OEM headlamp.
The NHID conducted an investigation of the complaint and responded to Piispanen that it did not find any violation of New Hampshire state insurance laws or regulations. Piispanen says this is because the NHID believes the OE surplus parts are approved by Ford and rebranded for the aftermarket industry when, according to Piispanen, they’re actually “rejects from the assembly line, otherwise they would have been sold through a Ford-approved vendor or at the very least would have been in Ford packaging instead of plain bags and boxes.”
“How can your office determine and say this State Farm aftermarket lamp meets New Hampshire aftermarket laws?” Piispanen wrote back to the NHID. “It is nowhere near like, kind and quality with missing parts. What should I have told [my customer] when they picked up their Ford Focus if we had installed the State Farm lamp and it didn’t work? The State Farm headlamp is not going to work missing critical components such as bulbs, wiring connectors/plug, weather boots to keep the water out, etc.”
Piispanen further chastised the NHID for not enforcing its own laws.
“It’s unbelievable that State Farm can get away with whatever they want and the New Hampshire Insurance Department will not stand up to do the right thing, which is to enforce the New Hampshire laws that your department wrote and is supposed to enforce,” he said. “How dare your office say that it’s OK for State Farm to short-pay the claim, especially the price differences between the new OEM parts and the so-called aftermarket parts that your office says meet New Hampshire law.
“Your investigation pretty much says that the consumer or a collision repair facility has no say in a quality repair, and the insurance industry can disregard the New Hampshire laws. There’s a fox in the henhouse, and the New Hampshire consumers better watch out!”
Piispanen is also accusing State Farm of steering, citing a recent example where he says the insurer “harassed” a customer for “19 days” until she asked him to release her 2013 Volvo with rear and front damage.
“She doesn’t even know where her car is being taken to have the rear damages repaired,” said Piispanen. “My shop will be doing the repairs in the front of the vehicle after State Farm completes the rear damages. Why does the vehicle owner want my shop to repair the front end damages? Because Keene Auto Body is her choice of shop for collision repairs, but when it comes to a State Farm claim, she lost her right to decide where she can have her car repaired.”
In another incident, Piispanen claims a State Farm insured called his office complaining about the treatment he was receiving from State Farm for having taken his Toyota to a repair facility that was not on State Farm’s Select Service program. Due to the issues with State Farm, the owner of the shop referred the customer to Piispanen.
“I love it,” Piispanen said. “The more they try to steer, the more it drives people to my door. We might lose a few, but we gain a whole lot more in the end.”