A bill that will limit decisions concerning the parts and operations used in repairing an automobile towards the owner and the collision repair professional alone is under consideration through the Connecticut legislature.
The proposal, House Bill 5366, states that repairers are required to follow OEM guidelines, including the use of OEM parts, unless the client requests otherwise. It prohibits any “person or entity” from asking or requiring a shop to “repair a vehicle within an unsafe manner,” in order to use an aftermarket part or a recycled part from a vehicle older than the main one being repaired.
Those decisions would be left strictly to the owner and the repairer, proponents said.
The bill drew much testimony throughout a four-hour hearing through the legislature’s Transportation Committee on March 9. Proponents said the bill is definitely an effort to provide consumers the authority to determine how their vehicles are repaired; opponents argued it would raise costs, and tried to characterize it as being an outright prohibition on recycled and aftermarket parts.
State Rep. Roland Lemar
“Everyone proposes to have the consumer’s interests in mind,” said Rep. Roland Lemar , the home chair from the joint Transportation Committee. “I’ve been told by auto body repairers, I’ve heard from consumers who are upset at what has happened and how they’ve been steered in the past. And I think this bill arrives for consideration this season since the issue has gotten to the point where consumers are recognizing that they’re being in some cases forced to use parts which are substandard for the vehicle they own.”
Comments focused on the following two provisions of the bill:
“Section 14-65f Unless otherwise requested with a customer, an automobile repair shop shall follow the collision repair procedures, guidelines, recommendations or service bulletins from the initial equipment manufacturer when repairing a motor vehicle, and repair a motor vehicle, inside a manner based on such motor vehicle repair center, to guarantee the safe operation of the automobile and reasonably mitigate the diminished worth of the motor vehicle.”
“Sec. 14. No person or entity, apart from who owns the motor vehicle, shall require, request, encourage or result in a motor vehicle repair center to: Repair the motor vehicle within an unsafe manner, as determined by the repair shop or original manufacturer from the automobile, install an aftermarket part, or install a used part around the automobile unless such used part comes from a motor vehicle of the same model year age or newer and it is of like kind and quality of the part being replaced.”
“These sections are focused on consumer safety, consumer choice, and curbing outside interference in car repairs by entities for example insurance providers that aren't trained, not licensed, and by operation of self-interest and conflict, not in any way logically positioned to interfere,” said John Parese, general counsel for the Auto Body Association of Connecticut .
Parese likened insurers’ involvement in repair decisions to an insurer telling a surgeon to utilize a cheaper aluminum plate in place of titanium when operating on the patient. “In the event that sounds absurd, it is. But it's precisely the kind of thing that’s happening constantly in the context of auto body repair. Outside interference for example insurance providers are relentlessly pressuring licensed repairers to compromise quality,” he explained.
“Just as you would would like your doctor to make use of his or her best judgment when operating, you'd want your licensed repairer to do the same and stick to the manufacturer’s specifications. In light of today’s technology and safety systems, there is no other plausible option. I certainly don't want to put my loved ones in a vehicle that was fixed inexpensively. And I don’t think any one of you would either.”
Parese told lawmakers that, while repairers bear the responsibility for the quality of repairs, “we have the forces of an insurer who’s demanding each one of these cutting of corners and bears no liability for that downward pressure. And so i believe that exactly what the bill is suggesting is that, you realize, you who have no liability exposure and just to gain in cheap parts should not be allowed to interfere.”
No associated with the insurance industry was give consult with lawmakers concerning the bill during the hearing. Brooke Foley, the general counsel for that Insurance Association of Connecticut , appeared before the committee to deal with another bill, but in answer to a question from Lemar said she was “new at this time with [HB 5366] and so i can’t comment on it.”
Several representatives from the aftermarket and recycled parts industries objected to the bill, arguing that it amounted to an outright ban on the use of many, a claim proponents repeatedly denied.
“This language is anti-consumer choice because vehicle manufacturers will invariably recommend using OEM parts in their service bulletins, position statements, or they can simply change their repair procedure to mandate the use of those parts,” said Tom Tucker, senior director of state affairs for that Auto Care Association.
He referred committee members to the OEM’s position statements on parts use on the OEM1Stop website. “These position statements are abundantly clear that they did not authorize or recommend using any parts except genuine OEM parts purchased through the dealer network,” Tucker said. “Because of this language, this bill would then become a de facto ban on any parts except OEM parts.”
His comments prompted a response from Tony Ferraiolo of ABAC. “Where are we supposed to figure out how to repair an automobile unless we go to the manufacturer of this vehicle to tell us how to repair that vehicle?” he asked lawmakers.
Ferraiolo referenced the increasing complexity of vehicles and also the challenges that produces for repairers. “The systems onboard these vehicles are in possession of to be repaired properly, incidentally the maker is telling us to do this, or they might not operate the next time the individual … puts their brakes on and slams in to the car in front of them,” he said.
He, and others, denied the bill comes down to a ban around the use of aftermarket or recycled parts. “The consumer has the right under this language to create that determination, and when the repair shop feels they can perform a safe repair with those parts, then it’s authorized to do so,” Ferraiolo said.
ABAC President Bob Amendola said the issue is not money, but safety. “When we make a move that causes a fault or failure for the consumer, we are the ones that are totally responsible. So we have to have that authority to go along with that responsibility. Who better to figure out how a car gets repaired, than the repair experts who get it done every single day?”
Andreas Heiss, the Northeast manager of presidency affairs for LKQ Corporation, was among those speaking against the bill, stating that its provisions “possess a possibility to create a monopoly for the car companies.”
Heiss said consumers can already specify using OEM parts by choosing that option when they buy their insurance policies in place of the “like kind and quality” parts that almost all policies offer. “Your policy dictates what sort of parts are going to be used if you have your car repaired,” he said.
“In the end agree the quality repairers care enough for the safety of cars they’re repairing, we believe that blindly following these [OEM] procedures and guidelines is completely detrimental towards the parts industry,” Heiss said.
Michael Arcangelo made a similar argument, stating that the bill “would get rid of the utilization of recycled original equipment parts in the repair process,” raising repairs and insurance costs.
HB 5366 “puts undue powers with the new auto producers in determining the repair process of vehicles by enshrining in law their procedures … should be followed. These procedures are subject to change at any time at their discretion, there are no limits to what aspects they may change,” he explained.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation are among the many individuals and organizations which have submitted written testimony around the bill.
APCIA, in opposition, argued that HB 5366 would likely drive up the cost of car insurance in Connecticut because “it might likely lead to only original equipment manufacturers parts getting used in most autobody repairs in Connecticut when the repair pays for under an insurance policy,” instead of lower-cost aftermarket parts.
The association attempted to draw a line between what procedures OEMs recommend, and what is required.
“While insurers would agree the manufacturer's technical repair specification requirements should be followed, the word what within this bill would go beyond that – requiring compliance with all of ‘collision repair guidelines, procedures, recommendations and service bulletins from the automobile or original equipment manufacturer’,” it said.
“Auto insurers possess a strong belief that there is a role to play in ensuring that the vehicle owner receives a quality repair that's safe and price effective, and proposals like this, well should have been they may be, is going to be used as leverage to push the insurer from the process, save to pay for the inflated bill,” APCIA said in its unsigned statement.
Eric George, president of the AIC, wrote towards the bill, stating that the present system “enables appropriate tailoring of insurance coverage to suit the needs and desires of shoppers.”
“Under HB 5366, all automobile insurance consumers would be instructed to purchase this coverage, whether or not they need or need it,” George wrote. “Since Connecticut's current system of automobile insurance coverage already enables the purchase of OEM parts when the consumer wants or needs it, the IAC respectfully asks this Committee to reject sections 12 through 14 of HB 5366 to guarantee that customers continue to have the opportunity to choose this coverage or not.”
AAI offered its strong support for that bill, stating that it might give consumers control and lead to safer repairs.
“Nobody is saying someone has to choose an OEM part, but when a consumer doesn't want aftermarket or used parts to be used inside a repair, they ought to have the right to let them know,” because of the substantial investment that a vehicle represents, Wayne Weikel, senior director for state affairs for that Alliance, wrote.
“Vehicles today are complicated machines, with over 30,000 parts and an estimated 100 million lines of software code,” Weikel said, addressing the problem of safety. “To come back any vehicle to pre-collision condition and ensure safety systems will perform correctly in the future, repairers have to follow automaker repair procedures, for there are no other repair procedures to follow. Either a shop is following the repair instructions established by an automaker or they're which makes it up as they're going along.”