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A bill addressing steering, labor rates and estimates, S.B. 118, is being considered by the Wisconsin Senate, and insurers and repairers are at odds over whether the bill is needed.
The bill’s creator, Sen. Pat Kreitlow, says the legislation is meant to protect consumers who feel they’ve been pressured by insurance companies during the claims process.
“We’ve heard from a lot of constituents who said that they were subjected to a lot of arm-twisting, a lot of high-pressure tactics by the insurance company to go with (certain shops),” he told WQOW Channel 18.
The legislation states:
Auto insurers can’t require insureds to use a particular repair shop. Insurers must inquire whether claimants have chosen a repair shop before making a referral. The legislation also outlines methods to notify insureds of their right to choose a repair facility.
Insurers must pay the same rate for repairs as the general public in the local market area unless an agreement is made with a shop. Insurers may not limit or discount the amount paid on the basis that the repair would have cost less if it had been made at a facility specified by the insurer.
Insurance adjusters may not prepare a vehicle damage estimate or alter one prepared by another party without first physically inspecting the damage to the vehicle. The bill also prohibits an insurer or anyone acting on behalf of an insurer from unilaterally and arbitrarily disregarding a repair operation or cost identified under a damage repair estimate system.
Insurers in the state claim the bill will increase costs to consumers by complicating the repair process.
“It will slow down the repair process,” Andy Franken of the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance told the TV station. “It will, over time, increase costs, and it will remove the ability of insurers and agents to communicate with their customers.”
“It shouldn’t affect insurance premiums one bit, and if any auto insurance company says it does, they’re looking for excuses to raise premiums,” he said.
Repairers in favor of the bill told Channel 18 that consumers need to be informed of their rights when it comes to repairs.
“We just want consumers to know their rights and be able to go where they’re comfortable, where they’ve done work in the past, if they choose to,” said Tom Day of Ken Van Motors Body Shop in Eau Claire.
Read a summary of the legislation