Two pieces of legislation related to the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, and more specifically assignment-of-benefit (AOB) contracts, continue to make their way through the Florida legislature. HB 541 and SB 1002, both of which would bar such agreements for AGRR work, cleared the first round of committee review toward the end of last week.
HB 541, introduced by Rep. Philip Griffitts and filed on January 27, would prohibit policyholders from entering into AOB agreements starting with issuances on or after July 1, 2023.
“Any attempt by a policy owner to enter into such assignment agreement is void and unenforceable,” the legislation reads.
The legislation pertains to “inspecting, protecting, repairing, restoring or replacing the motor vehicle or mitigating against further damage to the motor vehicle.” Initially, that was the sum of what the bill addressed.
On March 14, the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee found the measure “favorable” and advanced it to the Civil Justice Subcommittee. The Subcommittee also made a few additions to the proposed legislation, bringing the bill more in line with companion legislation in the Senate.
The House bill now also bars shops from offering incentives in exchange for making an insurance claim for not only glass repairs and replacements, but also recalibrations. Furthermore, shops would also be required to notify customers when recalibrations are required as part of auto glass repairs and replacements. The AOB glass claim definition now also includes calibration and recalibration services.
Filed February 21, Senator Linda Stewart’s (D – Orlando) SB 1002 would prohibit companies from offering “items of value” to customers for making insurance claims for glass replacements and repairs. It would also prohibit consumers from entering into AOB contracts for re-calibrations as well as auto glass repairs and replacements.
“We have all seen the signs offering us cash or gift cards to have our windshields replaced. These incentives sound great, but the reality is some of these services are using you to sue your insurance for more money than the replacement actually costs,” says Sen. Stewart. “This behavior ultimately contributes to the ever-increasing auto insurance rates as insurers raise rates to compensate their losses from this practice.”
On March 15, the Committee on Banking and Insurance voted “favorable” with respect to the bill, advancing it to the Committee on Commerce and Tourism.
The AOB debate continues to be a controversial topic in Florida, with varying points of view from industry stakeholders. Fix the Cracks, an initiative comprised primarily of insurance companies and consumer protection agencies, touts the progression of the measures as a positive development for the industry.
“This good bill will end the use of inducements or gift cards to dishonestly entice consumers and also ensure replacement windshields are properly installed to protect the safety of Florida’s motorists,” says Florida’s chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis in a news release regarding HB 541 from Fix the Cracks. “By closing these loopholes and shutting down frivolous litigation, we will help fight rate hikes for auto insurance in our state.”
The owner of one independently-owned auto glass repair and replacement shop in Florida says the proposed legislation comes with positives and negatives. While it could remove some of Florida’s bad actors, those dubbed “windshield harvesters,” the owner believes insurance companies need to keep in mind what’s “fair and reasonable.”
“Getting rid of it may be good, but I don’t know if we would be able to survive,” the owner says with respect to the current amount paid by insurance companies.
Stay tuned for additional information on another HB 541 amendment that will be addressed in an upcoming article.
Are there bills being introduced to balance this, say for example clamping down on Belron / Safelite’s monopolization of the industry (appallingly low fixed rate agreement practices, job steering)? For many this is the only way to gain insurance clients, not all using AOB practices are working the lawsuit angle. And let’s stick to the facts; how would banning AOB practices improve the quality of the installations being performed in the Florida market?
Amongst the many contributors / donors to Senator Linda Stewart? Safelite Fulfillment. Hmmm. Interesting how that works.