A Connecticut bill that would allow tow truck operators to require vehicle proprietors to sign a contract for up to Twenty four hours of storage is an attempt through the insurance industry to obtain round the state’s anti-steering law, a lawyer told the legislature’s Transportation Committee.
The proposal, Senate Bill 332, conflicts with Section 38A-354 of the state’s general statutes, which guarantees consumers the authority to have the ability to choose where their vehicle is going to be repaired, attorney Peter Bowman told lawmakers.
Bowman asserted that the balance might have the result of giving insurance companies 24 hours to pressure owners to bring their vehicle to one from the insurer’s direct repair program facilities.
“Unfortunately, this bill is only a blatant attempt through the insurance industry to avoid the anti-steering law that has been on the books for many years in Connecticut,” he explained.
The pertinent portion of S.B. 332, which proposed changes underlined in the original, reads,
“No licensee shall require owner to sign a contract for the repair or for more than twenty-four hours of storage of such owner’s damaged vehicle included in the towing consideration or to sign a purchase for that repair of, or authorization for [estimate] estimating repairs to such vehicle, until the tow job continues to be completed. No licensee shall tow a vehicle in such a negligent manner regarding cause further harm to the vehicle being towed.”
As it stands now, the owner whose damaged car requires towing might have it towed right to their repairer of choice. “So far as that system works, It works generally well,” Bowman said.
“Exactly what the insurance companies, I believe, are attempting to do is enable them a 24-hour window to allow them to dive into this situation, get in contact with their insured, the customer, and try to convince that consumer to maneuver the automobile to a facility that'll be more advantageous to them, as opposed to beneficial to the consumer,” he explained. “And that’s the only real situation I can tell. There’s no benefit to the general public, there’s no help to the safety.”
“The consumer, if they can’t possess the car touched for 24 hours, presently has an extra day's rental, an additional day's storage, and really for no purpose, since there is no public screaming for this bill,” Bowman said.
“I’m not really a lobbyist. I’m not being paid for my time here today,” he told the committee. “I’m simply a person in the general public, and concerned about things i begin to see the insurance companies doing to tow truck companies, auto body shops and others.”
Brooke Foley, general counsel for the Insurance Association of Connecticut , said the business props up bill in an effort to protect consumers from being coerced into signing a contract like a condition of getting their vehicle towed.
Foley said the IAC is requesting a general change in the word what of SB. 332 “to ban a tow vendor from requesting a vehicle owner to sign anything, whether a accept to tow or a repair order, at the scene of the accident or within 24 hours of an accident.”
She said it’s “common” for collision repair shops, under such contracts, “to begin repairs on a vehicle oftentimes that’s a clear total loss. Frequently, the repairs include scans which are completely unnecessary.”
“This bill isn't about the steering statute,” Foley said. “The bill, as it’s drafted, only prohibits the towing vendor from requiring the car owner to sign a contract for more than Twenty four hours of storage. Ideally, a contract for towing would only be for towing and never include storage whatsoever. But that’s not what we’re requesting.”
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association submitted written testimony meant for the bill, stating that it “will ensure that vulnerable individuals are not coerced into receiving a long vehicle storage period and corresponding storage charges with the towing of the vehicle.”
“Abusive vehicle towing and storage practices cost consumers huge amount of money every year and excessive storage minute rates are one of the most frequent issues that insurers encounter. This bill is needed to address this issue and protect consumers from abusive practices,” the unsigned statement reads.
Tim Vibert, who owns Farmington Motor Sports, submitted written testimony urging lawmakers to reject the balance, saying that it might inconvenience motorists who have experienced a mechanical breakdown.
“This bill would not allow us to obtain a signed estimate for repair, as needed by the Dmv, within the first 24-hours from the tow,” Vibert wrote. “If the bill is passed, we'd not be able to profit the stranded motorist with the repairs needed, to get them back on their way, until following the 24-hours has expired. If the bill is enacted, it would be a disservice towards the consumer to get their vehicle repaired on time.”
Those who might want to contact the Transportation Committee can call 860-240-0590, or email [email protected]