Consumer Group Criticizes California Auto Insurance Claim Bill

July 23, 2009

A consumer group is criticizing a California bill that would allow an insurer to provide an auto insurance claimiant with information regarding services and benefits available during the claims process.

According to Assembly Bill 1200, “Motor vehicle insurance: direct repair programs” which is headed to its third reading in the senate, existing law prohibits insurers from requiring that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer. However, an insurer may suggest or recommend a specific automotive repair dealer under certain specified circumstances.

AB 1200 “would authorize an insurer to provide a claimant with
specific truthful and nondeceptive information regarding the services
and benefits available to the claimant during the claims process
pursuant to the policy, as specified.”

Consumer Watchdog said the proposal would undo a current California law prohibiting insurance companies from pushing, or “steering,” customers to auto body shops under contract with the insurer. AB 1200 “effectively guts the prohibition on steering and now allows insurers to ‘hard sell’ a policyholder on the insurer-controlled repair shop, even after the policyholder chooses an independent repair shop,” the group said.

A copy of a letter the group sent to Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, who proposed the bill, is available at:

According to consumer advocates, steering can lead to shoddy workmanship and endanger drivers’ safety. So-called “direct repair contracts” between insurance companies and body shops encourage auto repair shops to cut corners in order to save the insurer money and earn a spot on their “preferred provider” list. AB 1200 would allow insurers to, at any time during the claims process, badger customers with reasons to use the insurer-preferred shop, Consumer Watchdog said.

Source: Consumer Watchdog

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