Oklahoma AG Warns Against ‘Steering’ to Repair Shops by Insurers

November 9, 2014

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is warning citizens of his state about the practice of “steering” — where insurers strongly push consumers to take their vehicles to “preferred” auto body shops for repairs.

Pruitt said such repair shops that may be providing substandard service to consumers.

He is the second attorney general in a South Central state to take issue with the practice in a matter of months.

Pruitt is investigating reports that certain insurers are coercing Oklahomans into using auto body repair shops that may use salvaged parts or other substandard materials to make repairs, while claiming to use new parts or materials made by the automobile manufacturer, according to announcement released by his office.

The AG warned that the use of so-called “after-market” parts may void automobile manufacturer warranties. It is possible that such parts may not meet manufacturer specifications and potentially could fail in the future.

Many insurance companies strongly push consumers to have repairs completed at approved repair shops, according to Pruitt. Some may be crossing the line, making dishonest statements and knowingly guiding consumers to repair shops that make substandard repairs, the AG’s announcement stated.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell filed suit against State Farm over such practices in August, alleging “a culture of unsafe business practices” in its handling of vehicle repairs.

Caldwell’s suit, filed Aug. 19 in the 19thJudicial Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, accused State Farm of violating Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and Monopolies Law by “using scare tactics to steer Louisiana consumers to State Farm’s preferred repair shops and forcing shops to perform vehicle repairs cheaply and quickly, rather than in accordance with consumer safety and vehicle manufacturer performance standards.”

State Farm Public Affairs Director Phil Supple at the time said that Caldwell’s assertions were at odds with the company’s mission and its long history of “advancing vehicle safety.’

Oklahoma AG Pruitt said while most auto body shops and insurance companies are reputable and honest, his “office will hold accountable any shops or insurance companies who would seek to defraud Oklahomans through the illegal practice of steering.”

Pruitt is urging consumers who feel they have been coerced or subject to deceptive practices to contact his office.

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