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Wisconsin Assembly Holds Hearing in Anti-Steering Bill; Bill Would Expand Auto Glass Law to Include All Automotive Repair
April 17, 2009

The Wisconsin Assembly recently held a public hearing on the state's anti-steering law. While the state's current law addresses consumer choice for glass replacement and repair, A.B. 221 would expand this law to also include all types of automotive repair.

"Under current law, if your windshield was damaged, you could go to the shop you choose, but if it was your bumper that needed to be replaced, depending on your insurer, you might be required to take your vehicle to Jim's Body Shop," said Assemblywoman Schilling, who is the primary sponsor of the bill, as she addressed the Assembly's committee on consumer protection.

She noted that the bill is somewhat less stringent than others that have recently been debated.

"This bill would not prohibit insurers from establishing those direct-repair program agreements with auto repair shops. It would not prohibit insurance companies from recommending a shop to policyholders upon their request," she said. "This bill is about allowing consumer choice and providing fairness to auto insurance policyholders."

A similar bill was debated during last year's session and Schilling sponsored it as well.

One committee member questioned how the bill will affect premiums.

"I can understand why the auto repair industry would want this bill, but as a consumer, I wonder what this is going to do to my premiums," asked Assemblyman Nick Milroy.

Schilling noted that under the law, the insurer would still pay a fair and reasonable price for the repairs; the only change would be that the insurer could not issue recommendations when the consumer has a shop in mind.

Another committee member noted the similarity between the automotive industry and the health industry.

"You have in-plan and out-of-plan providers," said Assemblyman Thomas Lothian. "You understand what the cost will be for an appendectomy and what they'll pay if you want to go to a doctor that will charge you more, you understand that will be your responsibility."

Several others spoke in favor of the bill, including a body shop owner, Brady Jacobson of Lacrosse, Wis. He also noted that the legislation is not seeking to do away with direct-repair programs (DRPs).

"This is not legislation against DRPs," he said. "If a consumer does not have a shop in mind, the insurance companies are free to make a recommendation. This legislation strengthens the laws we have in place to allow consumers to choose a shop."

No further action has been taken on the bill since the hearing.

CLICK HERE for full text of A.B. 221.

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