Senator Richard Blumenthal is warning consumers about a proposal from the federal government that could force them to pay more for potentially inadequate repairs if they're involved in a car accident.
Blumenthal said Monday the U.S. Department of Justice is considering repealing a 1963 Consent Decree that gives motorists the choice of where to have their cars repaired.
“You want to come to Airport Road Auto Body, that’s your choice,” Blumenthal said at a press conference inside that Hartford repair shop.
The consent decree in question was enacted to prevent insurers from 'steering' business to particular auto body businesses.
“You ought to be able to do it no matter who the insurer is, no matter what kind of sweetheart deals that insurer has with other shops, no matter what kind of steering the insurer does-- your car, your choice – just like any other consumer transaction,” Blumenthal said.
Bob Amendola, the president of the Auto Body Association of Connecticut, said that the decree is already being abused, but instead of turning back the agreement, the Department of Justice should take steps to enforce it.
“What we’re seeing happen on a daily basis is insurance companies are doing their will,” Amendola said. “They are first-party with their insureds. They are writing contracts that give them the total say on everything happens in their car regardless whether or not safety is involved.”
Amendola accused insurers of approving the use of what he called "substandard" parts in repairs, as a way to cut costs.
The advocates say this practice not only hurts consumers. If the insurers are able to manipulate the market by steering customers as Blumenthal and Amendola suggest, small businesses lose customers to larger shops, cutting down on competition in the industry.