There is a proposal by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to terminate a Consent Decree that was enacted in 1963 that legally instructed 265 insurers and various other entities not to conspire to unreasonably restrain trade and commerce in the collision repair market. The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) is taking action in defense of the Consent Decree.
"The 1963 Consent Decree is a critical document that adds teeth to the collision industry's side when it deals with insurers," comments AASP/NJ President Jerry McNee. "The Department of Justice should be endorsing and promoting it on behalf of consumers - not considering erasing it from history. AASP/NJ stands behind the Consent Decree and all efforts to keep it in place."
The insurers and co-conspirators were permanently barred from (among other things) placing into effect any plan, program or practice that has the purpose or effect of:
(1) sponsoring, endorsing or otherwise recommending any appraiser of damage to automotive vehicles;
(2) directing, advising or otherwise suggesting that any person or firm do business or refuse to do business with (a) any appraiser of damage to automotive vehicles with respect to the appraisal of such damage, or (b) any independent or dealer franchised automotive repair shop with respect to the repair of damage to automotive vehicles;
(3) exercising any control over the activities of any appraiser of damage to automotive vehicles;
(4) allocating or dividing customers, territories, markets or business among any appraisers of damage to automotive vehicles; or
(5) fixing, establishing, maintaining or otherwise controlling the prices to be paid for the appraisal of damage to automotive vehicles, or to be charged by independent or dealer franchised automotive repair shops for the repair of damage to automotive vehicles or for replacement parts or labor in connection therewith, whether by coercion, boycott or intimidation or by the use of flat rate or parts manuals or otherwise.
Although the Consent Decree has never been fully enforced, it has been extremely useful in numerous lawsuits to support the fact that the practices referenced above are in fact illegal. The Consent Decree essentially states that three insurance trade associations and their members (more than 250 at the time) agreed to forever refrain from several practices, including setting prices and steering. The termination or elimination of the Consent Decree could have a devastating effect on the collision industry.
"The collision repair industry benefits greatly from anything that protects its customers and sets limits to what insurers can and can't do during the vehicle repair process," adds AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant. "Our industry can't afford to lose something as vital as the 1963 Consent Decree."
The DOJ has set a deadline of September 2 for interested parties to provide public comment on the proposal. The collision industry needs to act fast to tell the DOJ why the 1963 Consent Decree should not be terminated.
AASP/NJ has created a special web link to an online petition to assist members in quickly submitting their comments and telling the DOJ just how important it is to maintain and enforce the Consent Decree rather than terminate it.
Go to http://chng.it/fRgfbdZLnW to sign the petition and submit your comments. Time is of the essence!
For more information on AASP/NJ, please visit aaspnj.org.
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