RI lawmakers tackling debate over collision repairs

News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – After a crash, some vehicles are repaired with manufacturer parts. Others are fixed with aftermarket parts.

In Rhode Island, insurance companies can’t force consumers to use less expensive, aftermarket parts on new car repairs. Now, state lawmakers are considering bills that would strengthen that existing law.

The Auto Body Association of Rhode Island believes the legislation (H-8013, S-2679) would protect consumers’ rights to choose how their cars are repaired, according to spokesperson Jina Petrarca. 

“If you have a manufacturer part put back in your new vehicle, you can go to your dealer if something goes wrong with that part and your dealer will assist you in the manufacturer warranty,” Petrarca said. “If you have an aftermarket part in your new vehicle and that part fails – good luck.”

According to state law, “no insurance company may require the use of aftermarket parts when negotiating repairs with any repairer unless the repairer has written consent from the vehicle owner to install aftermarket parts.”

Currently, the law applies to vehicles that are up to 30 months old. Proposed legislation would increase it to 48 months.

The bill also includes a clause which says, “No insurance company may require any repairer to use repair specifications or procedures that are not in compliance with the recommendations of the original equipment manufacturer for those parts.”

“Auto-body shops don’t have a stake in this, except that we want to fix the cars right,” Petrarca said. “The aftermarket part legislation that’s proposed does not mandate aftermarket parts. It gives the consumer a choice. When consumers have the information and a choice, it can’t possibly be bad legislation.” 

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, known as PCI, is fighting back.   

“We’re concerned that this particular piece of legislation would drive quality replacement parts out of the market, thus increasing costs for everybody,” PCI’s Frank O’Brien said.

 According to O’Brien, aftermarket parts are 25% to 30% cheaper than manufacturers’ parts, and he said a recent PCI report shows the average claim in Rhode Island is already 26% higher than in neighboring states.  

“Rhode Island is already a very, very expensive place to get your car repaired, much more expensive than the states that surround us,” O’Brien said. “We have a lot of crashes. We have a lot of cars that need to get repaired, and this is just going to make a bad situation even worse.” 

The Automotive Body Parts Association, which represents several distributors of alternative collision repair parts, also opposes the legislation. 

In a statement to Eyewitness News, the association’s executive director, Edward Salamy, said, “Alternative collision repair parts have been providing Rhode Island consumers a quality, less expensive option compared to expensive car company brand parts for over 60 years. These parts keep collision repair costs down and help towards lower insurance premiums for Rhode Island drivers.”

“Many of these quality parts are certified by either NSF or CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) and come with a lifetime warranty by Automotive Body Parts Association distributors,” Salamy added.

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