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Consumers should be fully informed when choosing an auto body shop

Imagine that you are in a car accident and you need to find an auto body shop to repair your automobile.  You start by contacting your insurance company to initiate a claim.  And let’s say that you have a shop immediately in mind (shop X), and you inform your insurer that you want to go to shop X.

That’s your right – protected by law – to select shop X for any reason you choose.  As it should be, an insurer cannot force or demand that a claimant go to a particular body shop.  It is fully the decision of the claimant where they take their car, and that is an important protection that we support.

However, wouldn’t it always be in the consumer’s best interest to be fully informed of all the details of their insurance benefits before making the final decision to go to shop X?  

Doesn’t more information always make for a more empowered consumer decision?  We think so, and here’s why.

Consider:  If you knew that you’d get a lifetime guarantee on the work performed at one shop, yet only a 30-day or 90-day guarantee from another shop, wouldn’t you want to know that as a part of your decision making process?  Before making a final decision, wouldn’t you also want to know if one shop over another could begin working on your car more quickly or could guarantee an earlier job completion time?

I know I certainly would.

Under current law, however, it is unclear whether insurers have the ability to provide such information to claimants.
The law, while appropriately protecting the absolute right of a claimant to choose any body shop they want, may restrict claimants’ access to beneficial information.  

Auto body shops say that if a claimant makes a “decision” immediately, then all conversation about a claimant’s options must end – period.  There can be no discussion about guarantees, about workmanship, or about timelines if a claimant says they want shop X that they originally identified.  The existence of such a gag order is clearly a terrible circumstance for a consumer unknowingly limiting themselves from important information.

We believe that such a limitation severely disadvantages the consumer in making the very best decision about where to get their car repaired.  

This is a matter of informed decision making and, more important, it is a matter of consumer empowerment.  Denying information keeps people in the dark – a situation that is wrong, can be very costly, and can result in frustrations borne of incomplete information that never need to happen.

That’s why the California Black Chamber of Commerce supports AB 1200 (Hayashi) to allow the full disclosure of claims benefit information to accident victims at any time during the auto body shop selection process.


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