For years some auto body shops have complained insurers have been steering customers to "preferred shops" in the state. The ABAC and Blumenthal announced Sept. 1 that they were sending a formal request to the U.S. attorney general to look into the matter. Blumenthal said he would also reach out to attorneys general of other states.
Federal and state law prohibits insurers from telling consumers what repair shops they must use. But the ABAC says insurers are getting around those laws by telling customers if they use a non-preferred shop it might take longer and out of pocket expenses might be higher.
The practices have been defended as marketing, not steering.
Michael London, a spokesman for ABAC, said some of the members are preferred and there is also concern about safety.
He said there have been accusations that the preferred shops will fix the vehicle to the insurance company's specifications, not the customers' -- or even the manufacturers' -- specifications.
He said there have been cases where the shop was required to use parts that voided the warranty of a new car.
There are a number of local shops in the Bridgeport area that have been vocal in getting an investigation, London said.
When asked why it should be illegal for an auto insurer to dictate what auto body repair shop a person goes to while health insurers can refuse to pay for visits to doctors who are "out of network," London replied he didn't think people want the same kind of mess in the auto repair industry that they have in health care.