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Insurers Speak Out Against Washington Anti-Steering Bill H.B. 3053 During Hearing; Rep. Kirby Speaks Out

Several insurance company representatives said the text of Washington State's House Bill (H.B.) 3053 limits its communications with customers when they testified before the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on Tuesday, February 26. H.B. 3053 would amend the state's current anti-steering law and would prohibit an insurer or claims administrator (TPA) from recommending an auto glass repair or replacement shop for a claim that only involves glass if the insured indicates that he has chosen a facility (CLICK HERE for related story).

"At its core, this bill presents a huge problems in that it prevents insurers from communicating to its insureds the services and rights that they have paid for," said Mel Sorenson, speaking on behalf of the Property and Casualty Insurance Association of America.

Cliff Webster, speaking for the American Insurance Association, agreed.

"[The bill] would decrease the amount of information available to insureds and that's not fair to the consumer," he said.

A Belron US/Safelite representative, Dan Coyne, also was in attendance to speak out against the bill.

"If enacted, this bill would effectively be a gag order," he said.

One insurer representative argued that the bill is not one of importance to consumers.

"All we want is a seamless claims system. We're not getting complaints about this," he said.

However, the bill, which arose from work conducted by the Washington Independent Auto Glass Association and Seattle-based All Star Glass, also met lots of support from the auto glass industry with assistance from the Independent Glass Association, who insisted it's not meant to be a gag order.

"It is not our intent in any shape or form to gag the insurers," said Lisa Thatcher, speaking on behalf of All Star Glass.

Pam Shearer of Auto Glass Plus also spoke.

"What this bill is about is third-party administrators who also own glass shops whose language does interfere with a consumer's right to choose," she told the committee. "The language they use is, 'Unless you instruct me otherwise, I'd like you to use a particular shop.'"

Christie Newman, also of All Star Glass, noted that while the current law, passed last year, does have merit, she believes it is still flawed. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

"There is a big loophole in this bill that a third-party administrator can advise that they own the shop right before they start the repair," she said. "This bill is trying to prevent steering away of a consumer's choice."

Sen. Don Benton advised Shearer asked if it's possible this is an issue that's not of importance to consumers.

"Maybe they don't care and they just want their windshields fixed," he said. "Maybe that's the bottom line."

"I do believe consumers who have a choice in mind do care," she replied.

With regard to the insurers who came out in protest, Rep. Steve Kirby, who originally sponsored the bill, says this is not unusual in Senate hearings.

"Legislation that regulates the insurance industry usually fares better in the house than in the Senate," he told glassBYTEs.comô/AGRR magazine. "It is a strategy for the insurance industry to let things happen in the house and wait for them in the Senate and beat them down there."

He advised the insurance industry also ran radio ads opposing the bill over the last few days leading up the hearing in Washington State.

"I believe the insurance industry has drawn a line in the sand in the state of Washington and will fight to the death with every piece of legislation that attempts to regulate them in any way," he said.

At press time, Rep. Kirby was uncertain whether the bill would make it past the Senate committee. Stay tuned to for the latest.

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