The state already has a law in place that prohibits insurance companies from steering consumers to preferred auto repair shops, however, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the Insurance Department isn’t enforcing it. Instead of holding the Insurance Department responsible Blumenthal said he will endorse legislation that bolsters the state’s ability to enforce the law and prohibit insurance companies from engaging in this “deceptive practice.”
Auto body repair shops like Airport Auto Body in Hartford, where the press conference was held Wednesday, are victims of this practice, which ultimately hurts consumers, Thomas Bivona, president of the Auto Body Association of Connecticut, said.“It’s really becoming a safety issue for consumers,” because the repair shops insurance companies steer their customers to use after-market parts or they rush to get it done based on the reimbursement the insurance company is willing to spend, he said. Bivona said Airport Auto Body is a good example of how the insurance companies decisions hurt consumers. He said owner Tony Cavalaro’s shop is certified by Jaguar to repair the luxury vehicles, but insurance companies refuse to pay the labor costs mechanics certified to work on the vehicles should receive. Bivona said if an insurance company sends a Jaguar owner to one of its preferred shops that isn’t certified to work on the vehicle, the driver loses their warranty. If you drive a Jaguar you’re probably paying a higher premium, which merit’s the certified shop, while that makes sense to most consumers, the insurance companies disagree. Then when these disagreements are taken to the insurance department nothing happens, Bivona said. He said there’s even a dispute with the Insurance Department over how many complaints have been filed. He says thousands, but looking at the department’s most recent report on company performance based on number of complaints there are far fewer. In 2005 the Insurance Department reported that auto insurance companies whose earned premiums exceeded $5 million had more than 300 complaints. Click here to see how many claims your insurance company handled. Bivona said over the years the situation has gotten progressively worse. Blumenthal said in addition the insurance companies tactics are more subtle. He said it goes something like this: You have an accident and call the insurance company to ask if you can take the car to your repair shop, they’ll say we recommend these five…So you ask a different way, I can’t take it to my repair shop? And the insurance company answers we recommend these five…In the end the consumer loses and the insurance company profits. William Denya of Denya’s Auto Body, Inc. in Meriden said to remind customers that they get to chose where to take their car for repairs he include the saying: “Your Car! Your Choice!” on his business cards.