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05/07/2001
     
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New Jersey Enacts Body Shop Licensing Standards
. . . Prohibited Conduct Defined !

Tempe, AZ 04/30/2001 - Since its formation in 1994, the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network has been actively involved in efforts to put consumers back into safely repaired vehicles and seeing to it that insurance policy promises are fully kept.

I-Can is pleased to report the New Jersey Legislature has taken a significant step in assuring collision damaged vehicles are properly repaired and fraud is discouraged. The new law to which we refer, approved on April 10, 2001, can be accessed online by going to . . .

www.njleg.state.nj.us/2000/Bills/al01/53_.htm

In addition to setting standards for auto body repair facility licensing, the new law incorporates standards of business conduct which I-Can views as discouragement of Fraud.

It is now illegal for auto body repair facilities in New Jersey to . . [1] Make or authorize any written or oral statements known to be untrue or misleading . . [2] Not provide a copy of any document signed by the customer at the time the document is signed . . [3] Make an appraisal of the cost to repair a collision damaged motor vehicle through the use of photographs, telephone calls, or any manner other than personal inspection, and . . [4] Inflate an estimate for repairs so as to cover the amount of the deductible of an insurance policy.

The new law defines minimum requirements in the way of equipment and training and, perhaps most importantly, Funds Enforcement.

The new law also now defines a process by which auto body repair facilities may expect the cooperation of lien holders and/or lessors in negotiating two-party payment documents presented in satisfaction of completed repairs.

The Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles [Department of Transportation] is instructed to promulgate new regulations [consistent with this law] and is empowered to take enforcement actions. Enforcement includes civil penalties of not more than $5,000 for first time violations and not more than $20,000 for second and subsequent violations. The Director is also empowered to close auto body repair facilities found to be chronic offenders.

While the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network has earned their reputation as an advocate for consumers in their dealings with the insurance industry, it has not escaped our notice that the insurance industry does not have exclusive franchise on consumer abuses. Some (operative word here "Some") auto body repair facilities, either in concert with auto insurance companies or separately from such conspiracies, engage in practices harmful to consumers. I-Can views this new legislation as providing much needed Consumer Protection benefits.

I-Can gratefully acknowledges the tireless efforts of Brian Vesley and Charles Bryant of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of the Garden State. Brian headed up their Legislative Committee and spent countless hours working with State Senators Shirley Turner and Andrew Ciesla and Assemblymen Jeffrey Moran and Anthony Impreveduto to get this piece of model legislation passed. Those who wish to do so, can communicate with Brian Vesley through his shop's web site at www.valtekinc.com and with Charles Bryant via Email at setlit4u@aol.com.

The Insurance Consumer Advocate Network is an InterNet based consumer advocacy effort designed to Increase Consumer Awareness as to Insurance Related Issues, Encourage Consumer Involvement with Insurance Related Efforts and Facilitate Consumer Contact with Pro-Consumer Entities.

The InterNet web site for the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network is www.iCan2000.com.

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