Connecticut Attorney General Prepairing for Battle

May 28, 2004 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Connecticut?s collision repair industry could be on the doorstep of a revolution. For the first time in the Auto Body Association of Connecticut?s history, it has the full attention of the state?s Attorney General. And Attorney General Richard Blumenthal appeared startled at the allegations and stories he heard when he attended and spoke at the ABAC?s annual meeting Tuesday night, May 25th, 2004.

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut?s elected Democrat Attorney General is known for his strong pro-consumer positions and his willingness to take on the largest corporations when they wrong consumers. He?s taken on the tobacco industry, Microsoft, and he has even taken on the medical insurance industry in the past. He is also believed to be a likely candidate for the next Governor?s race. So when ABAC officers received word that the Attorney General accepted their invitation to speak at their annual meeting they were elated.

Prior to the ABAC meeting Attorney General Blumenthal was given a list of seven questions and concerns Connecticut?s collision industry had relating to insurance company tactics and schemes. ABAC officers were disappointed when they were told by Blumenthal?s assistant that he found the questions to be too detailed and he wouldn?t have the time to prepare answers for them. Many thought he would just give some canned political speech. The collision repair industry in Connecticut has little confidence in elected officials sticking their necks out when it comes to matters relating to insurance company misbehavior. Some ABAC members and officers, myself included, thought this might be just a waste of time and effort.

But to everyone?s surprise, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was succinct, humble and reassuring. He spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes touching on two issues: Antitrust law and price fixing, and unfair business practice law. While he did not get specific, and did not directly address the insurance industry, he did outline his beliefs and commitment to protecting consumers from illegal corporate activities. He summarized his past accomplishments and the battles he?s taken on with big business, and he put them in context with many of Connecticut?s collision repair industry concerns.

Being a politician, Mr. Blumenthal did not miss the opportunity to reflect on the misdeeds of the current administration. Governor John Rowland is currently being investigated for accepting extravagant gifts in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts to Connecticut companies. He called the Rowland administration ?one of the most corrupt administrations in Connecticut?s history.? He told an amusing story of recently requiring all state vendors to fill out a form listing all the gifts they?ve given state officials in the past ten years. One contractor complained, ?How am I supposed to remember them all!?

During his speech the Attorney General noted, ?This is just the first hour of our meeting.? He made it clear that he was eager to meet with ABAC officers again so he could gather more detailed information about our problems with the insurance industry. One thing that struck me was his sincere lack of knowledge of what the insurance industry was doing to collision repairers. While, at first examination, this lack of knowledge may make the Attorney General appear oblivious to our concerns, I think it is actually a bright spot on the horizon. It would explain his reluctance to tackle the tough questions we supplied him with prior to the meeting; he lacked the background knowledge to confront the issues, but his interest and curiosity were piqued by our numerous strong allegations. His desire to meet with ABAC officers again, and establish a relationship with the collision repair industry showed that he wasn?t just blowing smoke to get us off his back (Let?s see how easy it will be to arrange another meeting).

The Attorney General fielded several questions from ABAC members after his initial speech. The questions all related to experiences shop owners had with insurance companies. You can imagine the stories. Mr. Blumenthal seemed genuinely shocked to hear some of the injustices these shop owners and their customers had faced, especially when each question and story was echoed by most everyone else in the audience. Blumenthal?s reactions gave me hope that subsequent meetings with him will result in some serious actions against the insurance industry.

Mr. Blumenthal told the audience that he had met that morning with Insurance Commissioner Susan Cogswell to get a taste of the Insurance Department?s position on the allegations presented to him in the seven questions provided by the ABAC. However, he did not reveal the content or tone of the conversation. But I have reason to believe that Connecticut?s Department of Insurance is feeling the heat right now. Finally!

In April, a chance meeting I had with Governor Rowland in an antique shop gave me the opportunity to let him know how wonderful his Insurance Department was at protecting his constituents. Amazingly, he agreed with me that the Insurance Department is not doing its job. Apparently word of this conversation made its way to the Insurance Department because a few weeks later I received a call from one of the head examiners at the Insurance Department, completely out of the blue, apologizing for not getting back to me on one of the many complaints I have filed. He wanted to assure me that his department was not ignoring me, that they were now investigating the insurance industry?s method of determining labor rates, that they were questioning each insurance company individually, gathering information, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I felt so much better.

But between Rowland?s inquiry, Attorney General Blumenthal?s meeting with the Insurance Commissioner and all the complaints that many Connecticut shop owners are filing, Connecticut?s Department of Insurance has to know something?s up. No doubt, Insurance Department officials (all being ex-insurance company employees with many friends in those tall glass buildings) are chatting with their friends at the insurance companies, telling them that Connecticut?s collision repair industry is organized and preparing for battle. No doubt, insurance executives are contacting lobbyists and politicians asking for help. And no doubt, they will get help.

That leaves the question, can and will the Attorney General of the insurance capitol of the world take on the insurance industry? Will he have the political power and the courage to clean up one of the sleaziest industries in Connecticut? Will Connecticut?s collision repairers, someday soon, be able to finally make a fair and honest living, and offer job opportunities that will, once again, attract intelligent people to the collision repair business?

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Comments

4 Comments on Connecticut Attorney General Prepairing for Battle

  1. Gene Hamilton on Fri, 28th May 2004 4:19 pm
  2. Nice to see the efforts are still hitting home and you are leading when our industry is still watching, sitting on the sidelines or waiting for someone else to do the work that they sould be doing by each and everyone working in ourindustry

  3. Brian Vesley on Tue, 1st Jun 2004 1:16 pm
  4. Thank you for taking the time and having the conviction to present the auto body case to your attorney general. Years of effort have gone into this and years more may be required, but with your actions you are showing us the way to accomplish change. You are an inspiration for New Jersey.
    Brian Vesley
    Legislative Chairman AASP/NJ

  5. Barrett R. Smith AAM on Wed, 2nd Jun 2004 6:22 am
  6. I am very pleased to see a state industry association such as ABAC make and take the opportunity to edify state legislators to the harmful practices being perpetrated against the unwary American consumer.
    These issues are of great concern across our nation from every township to each and every great city and metropolitan area.

    Once exposed, I am confident that the less than ethical practices of those insurers and repairers will cause for more oversight and stringent activities to ensure existing laws and governing regulations are adhered to. This will aid is allowing all parties to compete on a more level playing field with more accountability of which little currently exists.

    The sleeping guard dog needs to be awakened!

    Thank you ABAC for being a part of the solution!

  7. Auto Body Repair Beaverton on Tue, 26th Jan 2010 11:29 pm
  8. I’ve seen a lot of DIY auto body repairsr and I’m sorry to report most of them require complete re-do’s. And corrections cost more than an original repair would because so much needs to be corrected. But if you are really meticulousabout your steps and use your local auto body supply store for advice, you can deliver great results on the first shot.

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