Three insurance associations are urging Californians to contact their legislators to oppose a bill that they say would influence where consumers get their vehicles repaired following an accident. The bill, SB 1167 by Senator Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, is scheduled to be heard Wednesday, April 2, 2008, before the Senate Banking, Insurance and Finance Committee.
According to the legislative counsel’s digest, SB 1167 notes that “existing law provides that no insurer shall require that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer, and that no insurer shall suggest or recommend that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer, except as specified.” However, the bill would provide that “when a claimant first reports vehicle damage to an insurer, the insurer shall ask the claimant if he or she has selected an auto repair dealer. If the claimant responds in the affirmative, then the claimant has chosen an automotive repair dealer for purposes of existing law. This bill would also prohibit an insurer from engaging in any discussion regarding a program or a facility that performs auto body repairs, as specified, after a claimant has chosen an automotive repair dealer.”
Trade groups say that by not providing additional discussions, the bill would cost policyholders more money and deprive accident victims of making informed choices about getting their vehicles repaired.
Current law guarantees California consumers the right to decide where their cars are fixed after an accident, the Association of California Insurance Companies, American Insurance Association and Personal Insurance Federation of California say. They believe SB 1167 would permit some auto repair shops to steer customers to their shops by limiting the information available to claimants.
“This is a special interest bill for auto body shops that are afraid of informed consumer choice,” said Rex Frazier, PIFC president. “Why are auto body shops afraid to let consumers know which shops provide a better guarantee of repairing work? Consumers should be able to choose any body shop they want following a crash, and they also deserve to know whether or not a particular body shop will stand by its work.”
Consequently, the associations have created a Web site (www.caautobodychoice.com) that allows Californians to directly contact their legislators on this issue.
“Visitors to the site can communicate to the members of the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee to register their concerns about this anti-consumer effort,” said Sam Sorich, ACIC president.
The groups also have launched a media campaign that includes radio ads, to inform listeners of the auto body shop bill.
“Consumers deserve the right to have all information about repair options, including facilities with a proven track record of quality repairs, warranties and a hassle-free claims process,” said Janine Gibford, AIA assistant vice president. “Consumers should not be denied information because some auto body shops are afraid of competition and think that full disclosure will cost them business.”
For more information on the bill, visit http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1167&sess=CUR&house=B&author=wiggins
Source: AIA, ACIC, California Legislature, PFIC
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