Whether Safelite Solutions customer service representatives (CSRs) use the word “may” be or “will” be balance billed by out-of-network glass companies does not make a difference, according to a Safelite Group and Safelite Solutions court filing late last week. Both words are truthful, the company said in its response to the Minnesota Department of Commerce in the court filing.
“Even these statements truthfully inform policyholders if the amount charged is higher than what the insurer will reimburse, that amount will be the policyholder’s responsibility,” Safelite’s attorneys say in the court documents. “Defendant does not deny that non-network shops have the right to seek unreimbursed amounts directly from the policyholder. In contrast, balance-billing is not possible with network shops because they contractually agree to pay the insurance companies’ prices.”
While two Minnesota AGRR companies say in the court documents they will not exercise their right to balance bill, this is not representative of all glass shops in the state, according to Safelite.
“Safelite cannot be expected to monitor all 1,300 non-network shops in Minnesota to determine which are exercising their right to balance-bill,” Safelite’s attorneys say in court documents. “If no shop in Minnesota wishes to balance-bill customers (despite the documentary evidence showing some have done so), the industry should lobby the legislature to bar balance-billing. Only then would it be proper to prevent Safelite from informing policyholders that they may be responsible for balances.”
The lawsuit was filed in April 2015 by Safelite. In the case, Safelite referred to a settlement agreement between the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Insurance Division, and Auto Club Group that provides for the Auto Club Group to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 and “cease and desist from using Safelite Solutions, or any other subsidiary of Safelite Group Inc. as its administrator of automobile glass claims in Minnesota,” according to the consent order.
In the motion for summary judgement, Safelite’s attorneys contend that Commissioner Michael Rothman seeks to restrict Safelite’s protected commercial speech.
Safelite’s attorneys contend that the Department of Commerce has interpreted a local statute as prohibiting the company from “advising that insureds may be balance billed by non-preferred glass vendors” for charges not covered by the insurer. Safelite’s attorneys argue this statement is true.
Attorneys for the state, however, say Safelite did not use the word “may” and instead used language that includes “will” or “would” be balance billed.
In 2013, Marty Fleischhaker, the Commerce Department’s assistant commissioner for enforcement, was brought information, including copies of recordings of three-way phone calls between an AGRR company, Safelite Solutions and insureds.
To determine the accuracy of the information, Minnesota’s attorneys say Fleischhacker agreed to have his own damaged windshield replaced and participated in a call with Safelite Solutions.
The assistant commissioner says the statements concerning balance billing were “deceptive and coercive.”
Throughout 2014, the state collected documents and call recordings from insurers. The state’s attorneys also noted that that the Commerce Department opened an administrative proceeding against Safelite Solutions alleging that the company engaged in unlicensed adjusting.
The state has asked that the court to deny Safelite’s motion for a preliminary injunction and summary judgment.
The judge has not yet issued any new decisions.
To read Safelite’s motion for summary judgement, click here.
To read the Minnesota Commerce Commission’s response, click here.
To read Safelite’s response, click here.