Safelite’s attorneys have filed a brief in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that the U.S. District Court “erred in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction” and asked that the lower court’s order to be reversed. The company wants the Appellate Court to halt enforcement of Connecticut’s anti-steering law—PA 13-67.
Safelite’s attorneys take particular issue with a small portion of the act—PA-13-67(c)(2).
“It prohibits an insurance claims administrator (TPA) from informing policyholders about an affiliated glass repair business unless the administrator simultaneously refers policyholders to a local competitor’s glass repair business,” Safelite attorneys explain.
They argue that by requiring the company to name a competitor, “it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice: Either discontinue wholly truthful speech advising customers about Safelite-owned vehicle glass repair services, or when making such representations, also provide a referral to a competing local glass repair shop. The First Amendment protects against such attempts to commandeer speech—even commercial speech.”
“[T]he denial of the preliminary injunction should be reversed and the state should immediately be enjoined from enforcing PA-13-67(c)(2),” Safelite’s attorneys claim.
“Policyholders often rely on their insurance company or its representatives during the first-notice-of-loss call to assist with a recommendation of a vehicle glass repair shop and for assistance scheduling an appointment at the shop. Safelite always honors a policyholder’s preference for a particular vehicle glass repair shop. If the policyholder does not express a preference, however, the customer service representative will recommend a glass repair shop in accordance with the insurance provider’s glass program,” attorneys claim.
“Many, though not all, of Safelite’s insurance-provider glass-program scripts include a recommendation to Safelite AutoGlass, if one is conveniently located or offers mobile repair service that can perform the work where the vehicle is located,” they continue. “If no Safelite AutoGlass shop is available, Safelite’s scripts may refer the policyholder to an independent glass repair shop that is part of a network of glass repair shops Safelite maintains.”
Citing testimony from the Connecticut Insurance Department when the bill was in consideration by state Congress, Safelite’s attorneys contend that not one customer complained about how the company’s process worked before PA 13-67 was enacted.
To avoid the appearance of an endorsement for a competitor’s shop during a customer call, the District Court suggested to Safelite that it tell customers “that it is mandated by law to also provide the name of a non-affiliated repair shop and could even say that Safelite did not recommend the shop and instead recommend using Safelite AutoGlass,” attorneys contend.
“That would not cure the First Amendment problem,” they argue. “Rather, it would force Safelite to convey a message with which it disagrees strongly: That the state has forced it to disclose other companies because it is somehow inappropriate or suspect for Safelite to recommend its affiliated shops. In addition, the awkward script the District Court wrote clearly suggests that the state itself views these shops as appropriate alternatives. And if Safelite really were to take up the District Court’s invitation to start affirmatively disparaging the other shop it mentions, the consumer would likely be turned off by this caddish, aggressive behavior. The law will have forced Safelite to change its corporate persona and ‘go negative.’”
As an alternative, Safelite attorneys propose the state publish its own list of glass repair shops consumers may refer to.
Safelite’s attorneys ask the Appellate Court to overturn the District Court’s decision.
“For the foregoing reasons, the District Court erred in denying the motion for preliminary injunction,” the company’s attorneys claim. “That order should be reversed and the matter remanded with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction preventing defendants-appellees from enforcing PA 13-67(c)(2) pending resolution of this action.”
The state has not responded in the court system at press time.
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Public court records are available:
To view a copy of Safelite’s Second Circuit Court brief, click here.