Wednesday, 09 December 2009 09:38

State Farm Denies Steering Allegations

Bob Devereux, public affairs assistant manager for State Farm California Media Relations, specifically addressed G&C Autobody owner Gene Crozat, who has alleged in a public meeting (see Autobody News, Dec. 09) that a class action lawsuit is necessary to stop State Farm from steering customers in California.

“Gene Crozat has employed these type of tactics ever since he was removed from our Select Service program. State Farm does not admit repairers to the program based on anything but program guidelines, and Crozat said he would stop his tactics if readmitted to the program,” said Devereux. (Crozat denies he will drop the suit.)  “The Department of Insurance has not justified one steering complaint against us, so we’re at a loss as to why he and other repairers are accusing us of steering. Were there any basis in fact, it would have been exposed by the DOI or litigation.


“It is the vehicle owner’s choice where to have his or her car repaired, and State Farm supports that choice. We have resources and a process in place to handle customer claims, and we treat them all the same no matter where you get your car repaired. And the service is prompt, courteous and efficient.”
The statement has provoked a storm of scornful commentary at  Autobody News and other comment sites. Sample comments are:
Wrote Steven A. Koontz: “State Farm will never admit to steering but we all have had customers telling similar stories of no guarantees, no rental car, and no cooperation from State Farm if they choose [another] repair facility. It will be hard to prove, but the sooner State Farm and other insurance companies stop practicing steering, the sooner repair facilities can regain their relationship with their customers.”
“State Farm and others have been steering customers for years. They do it will sometimes subtle phases that cause doubt in the mind of OUR customers. We all need to stick together and get this to stop. Notice how they attacked the messenger (Gene Crozat). The litigation  is coming,” wrote Scott [last name not given].
“The experiences I have with State Farm and their steering practices are too numerous to count. Their claims center, as well as local offices, [are] insistent on telling customers [that] State Farm will not warranty any repair not performed at on of their shops. further more, State Farm likes to inform customers that dealerships charge more than they will pay which will result in the customer paying out of pocket. These scare tactics need to stop,” wrote Chris Roberts.
“No, they would never do that [steer]. Last evening, while I was dealing with a customer calling in [to tell] me that State Farm told them they couldn't take it to our shop because we ‘weren't preferred’ and that means “maybe we don't have the proper equipment or education,” I was greeting another guest who was telling me that their State Farm agent told them they couldn't take the vehicle here because we weren't approved, but they would never steer anyone, that is just our imaginations running away with us!! P.S. I got both jobs,” said Kevin [last name not given].
Benjamin Gomez, of Dentblasters in Houston, TX, wrote: “I too have experienced State Farm steering customers to other PDR companies. They can deny it all they want. An example: I was doing a repair for a local body shop in Stafford, Texas, when a hail-damaged car came in. I was asked to write an estimate, I did. When they submited the estimate to State Farm they said it was too high. I use their pricing matrix for hail damage repairs and I follow it to the "T". They in turn gave the body shop a business card to another PDR company and told them to use the other company or they would pull the car. If that is not steering I don't know what is.”
Approximately 80 people from 40 shops were at the meeting, which was also attended by two lawyers who advised repairers on how they can protect themselves from steering and what steps they can take to pursue legal action if necessary. A second meeting is tentatively scheduled for Irvine, California on January 16 to address other shops’ grievances and to inform and educate more people on how to fight steering.{jcomments on}