An investigative report aired late last night that covers the state’s new anti-steering law for automotive glass claims on NBC Connecticut. The report centered on a Connecticut resident who alleges he was steered to Safelite AutoGlass by Safelite Solutions (a third-party automotive glass claims administrator) and AGRR company owners in the state allege this situation is not new.
NBC Connecticut reporter George Colli created the report in response to a recent law being passed to prevent automotive glass steering in the state—Public Act 13-67 (an Act Concerning Automotive Glass Work)—which went into effect January 1.
“We are aware of the complaint from [Steven] Petrauskas and are investigating what took place,” according to a Safelite statement issued to the station. “While Safelite Solutions dedicates significant resources in training its customer service representatives, sometimes human error may occur and that is what we believed happened here.”
“’Human error’ or not, the NBC 30 report is very concerning because the auto glass people of Connecticut worked very hard to pass a law that makes what happened illegal,” alleges John Wisniewski, president of Payless Auto Glass. “Public Act 13-67 (an Act Concerning Automotive Glass Work) ensures that third-party administrators operating within Connecticut notify our consumers of their right to choose and that their choice is being respected.
“If the law is not being followed we owe it to ourselves to make sure the Insurance Department knows this is happening. I will also request that the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Auto and Flat Glass Glaziers board be copied on any complaints that may arise,” he says.
Wisniewski is vice president of the Connecticut Automotive Glass Dealers Association and a Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Automotive and Flat Glass Glaziers board member.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Russell Vanasse, vice president of The Window Shop Inc. in Plainville, Conn., says the reporter “did a great job explaining in laymen terms the issue we all face as independent auto glass repair shops.”
“The only thing I would have liked them to investigate further on is the real reason why the Connecticut Insurance Department stated that they do not get many consumer complaints on this issue. Unfortunately, when a consumer needs glass replacement in their vehicle, they call the 800 number on the back on their insurance card. Once they listen to the options and select the ‘glass-only damage’ prompt, they are then transferred to Safelite (or any other TPA, for that matter) automatically, the claim information gets taken and the appointment gets set up,” she claims. “They (TPAs and insurance companies) have made it is so seamless for the consumer that the consumer doesn’t even realize that they could have chosen another auto glass repair facility, therefore they have nothing to complain about!”
The reporter covering the story for NBC Connecticut says the station has already heard from more consumers since the report aired.
“We’ve already started to get emails from viewers with steering complaints. There may be more coming on this [from our station] very soon,” he says.
According to a Safelite statement about the new law, “We support the section of the new law, which requires notice to consumers of their right to choose—we do this already. But the law goes on to say if we offer a Safelite shop, we must also provide the name of our competitor. We feel strongly this violates out First Amendment right to free speech and that is why we are challenging it.”
Safelite has sued state Attorney General George Jepsen and Thomas Leonardi, state insurance commissioner, and asked for an injunction to halt enforcement. After the District Court judge decided against an immediate injunction to halt enforcement, Safelite appealed this decision to the Appellate Court. A hearing was held at the Appellate level in late May and a decision has not yet been handed down.
“When PA 13-67(c)(2) is subject to the appropriate test—that announced in Central Hudson—it becomes clear that Safelite’s First Amendment challenge is likely to succeed and that a preliminary injunction should issue,” Safelite’s attorneys have argued.
On the other side of the courtroom, Connecticut’s attorney claims, “Safelite Solutions has been extraordinarily effective at steering consumers to Safelite AutoGlass.”
“[C]onnecticut has a statutory policy of protecting consumer choice in automotive insurance repair work. The Connecticut legislature enacted Public Act 13-67(c) (2) because it determined that existing statutes did not adequately prevent insurance claims administrators from undermining consumer choice by steering consumers to affiliated auto glass repair shops.”
Safelite declined to offer any further comment than what it told the NBC Connecticut station.