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Understanding The Anti-steering Bills In California And Connecticut

Recently, anti-steering bills have passed the state congresses of California and Connecticut, with a mix of support and opposition from the car insurance industry. “Steering” is the technique some car insurance companies use to send their customers to certain repair shops when car insurance claims are made. Anti-steering laws are intended to provide drivers with the option to use their choice of repair shops when a claim is made on their car insurance policy.

The Connecticut bill, HB 5152, prevents insurers from requiring their clients to use certain repair shops. Further, it, at least, requires the insurance companies to obtain a written statement from their clients that they've been informed of their right to use their choice of shop before the insurers recommend one. In California, Senate Bill 1167 requires the state insurance commissioner to create a task force to study the “steering” practice of car insurance companies and how the practice might affect some car premiums. Each bill has passed, and will take effect at some time within the next year.

Anti-steering bills mean that rates could conceivably raise insurance in the near future, as some repair companies lower their rates when working with certain car insurance companies. Because they're unable to negotiate deals with the consumer's choice of repair company, insurers may take on extra costs, which could translate to higher premiums for drivers in the affected states. California rates are unlikely to change until the state insurance commissioner acts on the findings of his committee. However, the more drastic the action, the higher the rates could theoretically rise, unless the state caps an insurer's ability to increase rates in light of the anti-steering measures. Existing policies may be treated differently than new policies, but the final fine print of the law will determine the legality and size of any changes.

Despite possible higher premiums, the anti-steering bills are seen as extremely pro-consumer. The added choices should allow for better car care and avoid forcing consumers to use after-market or substandard parts that might be forced upon them due to a combination of the car repair shop and their policies. Also, both the California and Connecticut bills have been stripped back from tougher, original versions that car insurers claimed were too stifling. They claimed that the original bills prevented them from recommending their customers to high-quality repair shops that could handle car insurance claims effectively and fairly while keeping expenses reasonable. The resulting compromised bills will lead to less drastic rate changes than the full-strength bills that were first introduced. In any case, drivers in either Connecticut or California may ultimately benefit from the additional laws and choices when filing a car insurance claim.

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