Insurance company executives and auto salvage shop owners celebrated, while auto dealers and collision repairers condemned Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of legislation dealing with who gets to dictate the cost of fixing accident damage to cars and trucks.
The measure (HB 664) would make it clear that auto insurers must reimburse repair shops as long as they make fixes that comply with “applicable manufacturer’s procedures.”
This would block the insurer from using its own collision expert to conclude a repair shop estimate was too high and would not be fully covered.
The bipartisan bill (HB 664) passed by a veto-proof majority in the House of Representatives and by a voice vote in the state Senate.
Bill sponsor Rep. Kermit Williams, D-Wilton, said it was the product of a study committee.
“We found there were a lot of differences among the body shops and the insurance companies in terms of repair requirements they were allowed or reimbursed for,” Williams told a state Senate hearing last spring.
But Sununu said the measure risked raising auto insurance premiums and could be a boon to large chain repair shops at the expense of smaller, independent businesses.
“New Hampshire citizens enjoy among the lowest auto insurance premium costs in the country. Current laws ensure safe repairs while maintaining a competitive market. This bill would increase the cost of auto insurance premiums by limiting the ability of insurers to negotiate what is reasonable in the repair process,” Sununu wrote in his veto message.
“The requirements outlined in this bill would introduce a significant disadvantage for smaller, independent repair shops and could limit their ability to compete. This limits consumer choice while raising insurance rates without the corresponding increase in safety for our citizens.”
The average auto insurance premium in New Hampshire for 2019 is $1,087, ranking it 46th highest among the 50 states.
The national average is $1,457, according to Insure.com.
Maine has the lowest average premium at $845.
Pete McNamara, president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association, said the veto is a setback for the home-grown auto industry.