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February 19, 2015 - Auto body litigation update: RELEASE: BLUMENTHAL URGES ATTORNEY GENERAL TO INVESTIGATE AUTO INSURANCE SCHEME THAT MAY PUT CONSUMER SAFETY AT RISK

For Immediate Release:
February 19, 2015
 
Contact: Sarah Zukowski (DC): 202-224-0335
Sarah_Zukowski@blumenthal.senate.gov
Elizabeth Benton (CT): 860-729-3589
Elizabeth_Benton@blumenthal.senate.gov
 
BLUMENTHAL URGES ATTORNEY GENERAL TO INVESTIGATE AUTO INSURANCE SCHEME THAT MAY PUT CONSUMER SAFETY AT RISK
 
 
(Washington, DC) – Following a CNN investigation uncovering new evidence that auto insurance companies may be directing repair shops to use cheaper and possibly more dangerous parts, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate. Blumenthal wrote that auto-insurers may be pressuring consumers to repair their vehicles at their preferred repair shops, which have agreed to use cheaper parts in order to save the insurance company money. In the letter, Blumenthal requested the DOJ investigate auto insurance practices that are not only possibly illegal, but that may also seriously compromise the rights of consumers and put the safety of our roads, motorists, and passengers at risk.
 
“Contrary to what consumers may be led to believe by their insurers, repair shops preferred by insurers do not necessarily equate with quality repairs ,” Blumenthal wrote. “It seems to be common knowledge among auto repair shops that the best way to land a coveted spot on an insurer’s preferred list is not necessarily by delivering consistent, quality service, but by agreeing to charge below-market labor rates and use cheaper, salvaged, used, or even counterfeit parts of questionable quality and safety.”
 
Unfortunately, many consumers are also being misled into thinking that they are required to have their car repaired at one of these shops. This has the harmful effect of limiting consumer choice, creating a serious safety risk, and suppressing competition in the auto repair industry .”
 
Over 5 decades ago, the DOJ issued a consent decree to stop auto-insurers and repair shops from corroborating and deceiving consumers. In the letter, Blumenthal requested the DOJ determine whether insurers are in violation of the 1963 consent decree or any other federal laws.
 
Full text of Senator Blumenthal’s letter to Attorney General Holder is attached and below:
 
The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States
Robert F. Kennedy Building
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
 
Dear Attorney General Holder:
 
As a longtime advocate of consumer choice, I write to bring to your attention to troubling new evidence that our nation’s top auto insurers continue to engage in anticompetitive and possibly illegal tactics to pressure consumers into repairing their vehicles at insurer-preferred repair shops. As uncovered in a special investigation featured on Anderson Cooper 360 Wednesday evening, insurance steering not only undermines a basic consumer right, but can also compromise the safety of vehicles on our nation’s roads—endangering motorists and their passengers.
 
I urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately investigate such practices by the auto insurance industry and act swiftly to protect the safety of consumers and preserve competition in the auto repair industry.
 
As junk yard, remanufactured, and used parts of substandard quality become increasingly widely available, auto insurers are adopting alarming new ways to save money at the expense of consumer safety. Contrary to what consumers may be led to believe by their insurers, repair shops preferred by insurers do not necessarily equate with quality repairs. It seems to be common knowledge among auto repair shops that the best way to land a coveted spot on an insurer’s preferred list is not necessarily by delivering consistent, quality service, but by agreeing to charge below-market labor rates and use cheaper, salvaged, used, or even counterfeit parts of questionable quality and safety. Unfortunately, many consumers are also being misled into thinking that they are required to have their car repaired at one of these shops. This has the harmful effect of limiting consumer choice, creating a serious safety risk, and suppressing competition in the auto repair industry.
 
According to a 1963 consent decree with the DOJ, a number of insurers were ordered to stop: “sponsoring any appraiser; directing, advising or otherwise suggesting any person or firm do business with any independent or dealer-franchised automotive repair shop; exercising control over the activities of any appraiser; and fixing or otherwise controlling the prices charged by automotive repair shops for the repair of damage to the vehicle or for labor in connection therewith, by use of a flat rate.” Over 50 years have since passed, and consumers and auto repairers possibly remain victims of the very same misconduct insurers were directed to stop doing decades ago.
 
I urge the DOJ to investigate and make a determination as to whether such practices violate the 1963 consent order or any other current federal laws. As you investigate this matter, I urge you to use your authority to investigate the contents of contracts between insurance companies and facilities listed in their direct repair programs or preferred lists. I would also like to request an update regarding DOJ’s understanding of the current signatories of the 1963 consent decree and whether they continue to be bound by the consent decree in light of business transactions in the years since the decree was signed.
 
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this important matter harming consumers and the auto repair industry, and compromising vehicle safety.
 
Sincerely,
 
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
United States Senator

Febraury 9, 2015 - Please read and share with every person you know! THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO CHOSE YOUR OWN BODY SHOP FOR REPAIR WORK TO BE COMPLETED!!1

IMPORTANT NEWS:
PLEASE READ THIS AND SHARE TO EVERY PERSON YOU KNOW. THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO CHOSE YOUR OWN BODY SHOP FOR REPAIR WORK TO BE COMPLETED!!!!
******UPDATE: TUNE IN TUESDAY FEBRUARY 10TH AT 8PM EST OR 7PM CST! CNN HAS MOVED THIS PIECE ON AUTOBODY LITIGATION. ITS IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO TUNE IN AND WATCH THIS ON CNN AND LEARN YOUR RIGHTS WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING YOUR AUTOMOBILE REPAIRED!!!

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:
Finally the time has come, even with all the political and financial pressures the insurance industry has been placing on CNN to NOT show the first of a very educational and important documentary, it will be showing Nationwide tonight, Monday February 9th, at 8:00pm EST on the Anderson Cooper Show !!!

This CNN undercover documentary will reveal what many of us have been facing, and testifying about for several years now ... that is what's really happening to consumers when they have an accident, have to file a claim with their, or the other insurance company, then get pressured, lied to, and steered by the insurance company to one of "their preferred network" repair facilities.

If you are on Facebook, you may have been seeing an increase of posts about this over the last few years ... the posts often graphically show the "preferred network shops" of the insurance companies that have private 3rd party deals, do whatever the insurance company mandates to cut their claims costs just to raise their profits by billions, regardless of placing the consumer at risk, compromising their safety, and their family's safety in another accident.

As collision repair professionals, we know today's vehicles have very advanced technologies built into their structural design, and many of the replacement parts should only be replaced with New OEM parts that have been tested, plus many of the repairs today require using special equipment, and may require special training and certifications, yet the insurance company typically does everything they can to convince consumers, that "repairs are repairs" and "parts are parts" ... regardless of what the manufacturers state in their repair guidelines, or what testing they have done.
They know that if the vehicle is not repaired properly using the correct parts, equipment, and procedures that have been designed by the manufacturer to ensure the same performance again and again,.. the vehicle will most likely not perform as designed in another collision, resulting in air bags not deploying properly, the crash energy not being absorbed as it should, and resulting in serious or even fatal injuries to anyone in the vehicle.

Do they care about the consumer ? They continue to claim that it is to save their policyholders premium dollars, but what they don't mention is that even in their own association (PCI) in depth study and released report on the savings ... just on using inferior untested parts ... it would only change the average policyholder's premium to just under $25.00 per year if they only used new OEM parts !

All this is going to be revealed in the litigations currently in Federal Court in Orlando, and additional documentary follow-up Stories, it will then be clear that insurers are not doing this for the consumer, but for their own extreme profits.

NOW ... TO THE IMPORTANT PART ... CNN looks very closely at the number of hits and comments on their website after they air a story like this ... and this one is going to be looked at very closely with all the pressure the insurance industry has tried just to squelch it from airing.

So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE after the showing or even during, go to the CNN website and TELL CNN you want them to continue this series and get all the way to the bottom of this insurance greed that is placing all consumers at risk, causing loss of vehicle value, and steering consumers to repair shops that will just cut corners for them to stay on the top of the "preferred list".

Have everyone you know go to the website and LIKE the story ... from every computer they own ... their phone, laptop, tablet, and desktop ... even Smart TVs !

This is that important to the future safety of every vehicle owner and passenger in the world, as well to our Industry ... the power of the internet and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc ... CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE ... but only if all of us take a little time to show CNN how important this has become.

It is time to eliminate DRPs as they have evolved to, not allow insurers to steer consumers to a shop that they don't know or trust, and that consumers receives properly repaired vehicles, with quality tested parts, and receive full payment and service levels according to their auto insurance policy.

Again, please share this to all your friends and family as asked at the beginning of this message ... then watch the CNN Broadcast tomorrow , go to the CNN website, and LIKE their broadcast and make comments ...

Finally the time has come ... Don't Miss the Chance.