A group of Florida collision repair shops have filed a third-amended complaint against State Farm and dozens of other insurers, alleging the insurers use their direct repair programs to illegally control and depress rates and they say if the shops don’t comply, customers are steered away. “With occasional exceptions, defendant insurers write estimates requiring use of aftermarket [such as aftermarket replacement windshields] or salvage parts. Aftermarket and salvage parts are, ostensibly, less expensive than OEM parts and, at least according to defendant insurers, of equal quality to OEM parts. This is simply not true,” attorneys for the collision repair shops allege in the complaint.
“[P]rofessional repairers on the whole prefer and recommend use of OEM parts for both safety and quality reasons. … Even aftermarket windshield glass poses a safety risk to vehicle occupants,” attorneys allege.
“In a rollover crash, the windshield works to keep the vehicle roof from collapsing. Aftermarket glass is thinner than OEM glass, and is not designed to fit a particular vehicle. As with other aftermarket parts, replacement glass is not subject to crash testing requirements, thinner glass may shatter rather than providing protection in a rollover or may simply pop out altogether,” attorneys claim.
Direct repair programs (DRP) have become “vehicles for suppressing repair costs to the detriment of the plaintiffs and consumers,” allege the court documents.
“Insurers steer or coerce consumers to their DRP shops, again proclaiming their benefits, while knowing many DRP shops across the nation consistently and willfully fail to make safe and proper repairs,” attorneys allege. “Not all DRPs are poor repair facilities, not even most. Most are honorable, hardworking and professional collision repairers. Many plaintiffs have associated with DRPs from time to time over the last twenty years, though the majority have since left all such programs.”
The third-amended complaint is in response to the U.S. District judge in Florida’s decision that more evidence is needed to support the antitrust allegations.
Insurers had not yet responded to the amended complaint at press time.
To read the third-amended complaint, click here.