"Working Small and Effective" was the title of a class at the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) in Dallas, Texas in early December, but it could have been an apt theme for the event. Many wondered whether NACE would "feel the impact" (the actual theme of the show) of the five major paint companies being absent from the trade show floor. Indeed, attendance by both shops and vendors was down. (For details, see "NACE by the numbers".)
A Texas state senator promised at NACE in Dallas to introduce a bill in the Texas 2003 Legislature that would prohibit an insurance company from acquiring any financial interest in a collision repair facility and require that any insurer currently owning body shops divest their interest by Sept. 1, 2006.
A Texas appellate court's decision last month to slash a monetary award in the a major mold-related insurance claim case should have a positive effect on the state's insurance market and help quell the national mold hysteria it engendered, according to the Alliance of American Insurers (AAI).
The Texas legislation unveiled at NACE that would prohibit an insurance company from holding or acquiring an interest in an automotive repair facility was scheduled to be introduced in Austin as early as February 4, this according to Jay Propes, a legislative consultant in Austin who is working with supporters of the bill.
Caliber Collision is blaming the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) for the rash of lawsuits that have been filed against it and thousands of other auto repair shops based on violations of BAR regulations.
Owners of small businesses ranging from auto repair shops to restaurants and nail salons have been howling about the lawsuits being filed against them in massive numbers by attorneys who allegedly abuse a section of the state's Unfair Competition Law known commonly as the Private Attorney General Act (Business & Professions Code Section 17200). The attorneys can use Section 17200 to sue small businesses and then pressure them for a quick settlement. In the case of auto repair, over 2,000 mechanical and collision repair shops have been sued, many of them for nothing more than a technical violation of BAR regulations such as failing to renew their registration on time - matters which they have since corrected. While many call such suits frivolous, they can never-the-less be costly to defend, and many business owners have chosen to settle them.
Two bills that prohibit automobile insurers from having an ownership interest in an auto body repair facility have been introduced in the Texas legislature and appear to enjoy considerable support. Texas Senate bill 435, introduced by State Sen. John J. Carona (R-Dallas) on February 17, has 14 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Business and Commerce Committee.
A bill to strengthen the California anti-steering laws was introduced in the California State Senate by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) on February 20. The bill would prohibit an insurer from recommending that an automobile be repaired, or not be repaired, at a specific auto body repair shop, unless the claimant specifically requests a referral. It would allow a claimant or repair shop damaged by a violation of this provision to recover damages and costs.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer on February 26 filed a consumer protection action against the Trevor Law Group of Beverly Hills, alleging the firm committed unfair business practices in slapping thousands of small businesses with abusive lawsuits filed solely to obtain nuisance settlements and attorneys fees.