“Despite our conversations at that time and an attempt on their part to obtain the scripts used by the call centers from insurance companies and a tally of complaints on their part, we were not able to gain traction on the issue,” Papi recalled. “Since 2015 was a short legislative session, we decided to wait until the 2016-2017 session to put forth a bill. I prepared a draft bill based on reviewing legislation from other states and, in particular, Minnesota. I met with our local representative, and we submitted the Legislative Bill request. The Office of the Reviser drafted the bill from our suggestions, and our core members represented at the workshop sessions and gave testimony in support of the bill. I prepared a thick binder for each member of the Finance and Insurance Services Committee. We provided them with links of articles, links to YouTube pieces on steering, a sample DRP contract, letters from collision shops over the past few years reaching out to legislators with steering concerns and 32 examples of steering (statements and accompanying paperwork) gathered by our members.”
The original draft of Legislative Document 1540 was denser, according to Papi, including a mandate that insurance companies cease any attempt to influence a consumer’s choice of shop once a preference had been stated and offer a list of shops within 20 miles to the consumers, plus it had an enforcement mechanism and increased penalties for violations.
“The revised draft that the Governor vetoed was a much more watered-down version of what we started with,” Papi said. “Once testimony is done and the committee subsequently workshops the bill, it’s a frustrating process to see language that you know is important whittled away as a result of the process of conversations during the workshop and the give-and-take to find a mutually agreeable middle ground.”
The MAA is very disappointed in the Governor’s veto and the Senate’s failure to override that veto by three votes.
“The Governor’s veto letter took the exact posture of the Bureau of Insurance,” Papi said. “Across the country, complaints of steering are generally low. People are intimidated (either by the insurance company or the complaint process), or they just don’t have the time, or when the repair is finally finished, they are just done and move on… there are lots of reasons. In Maine, there were very few complaints filed with the Bureau of Insurance, so they just did not see it as a pressing issue. However, the veto did not help the consumer, and it did not help a large number of Maine’s small businesses. If the steering continues, more shops on the edge of financial viability will lose customers that they cannot afford to lose and may have to join other shops that have closed. Less competition means less choice for consumers. Fewer shops free from DRP contracts mean fewer shops looking out for the consumer ahead of the interests of the insurance companies.”
According to Papi, the MAA members strongly disagree with the Governor’s claim that steering is not a problem in ME.
“We are the feet on the ground seeing the issue firsthand,” Papi said. “Isn’t that how these kinds of things always happen? Unless it’s happened to you, as a consumer, as a shop, or as a person dealing with it from a policy perspective, you are likely oblivious to the issue. Collision shops see and deal with the issue constantly. In those 32 examples we gave the legislative committee, time after time you hear the customer say things like ‘I wanted to use your shop, but my insurance company said they would not warranty the work,’ or, ‘It would take more time,’ or, ‘It’s easier to go to the DRP shop.’ Vehicles already onsite for repairs are towed away to a DRP shop. The steering tactics are implying lesser quality work, no warranty, longer repairs, and more if the customer chooses a non-DRP shop. We have a large elderly clientele and many young drivers, and they have been very pressured and upset and confused by the tactics. They are not alone. You have to be fairly savvy about your rights or just have a good amount of gumption to insist upon a different choice against your insurance company’s suggestion.”