Pushing Ahead: AASP/MA Continues to Campaign for Consumer Protection

by Alana Quartuccio

There is just no stopping AASP/MA, especially when it comes to protecting consumers.

It’s their mission to advocate for them while ensuring the survival and prosperity of the businesses they represent and the industry as a whole.

Their campaign for consumer protection is being heard loud and clear around the Commonwealth through various channels. One of the greatest examples of this lies in the amount of legislative support the Alliance has garnered once again for its proposed legislation in support of amending the Auto Damage Appraiser Licensing Board (ADALB) so it can more effectively protect consumers by having the Board housed under the Division of Occupational Licensure (DOL) rather than the Division of Insurance (DOI). AASP/MA has also made great strides in their efforts to reform the labor reimbursement rate.

In the last legislative session, AASP/MA generated a hefty amount of support in both the House and Senate for both bills. Although time ran out during last year’s legislative session, momentum most certainly did not, and AASP/MA is pushing ahead as support for both bills resubmitted earlier this year continues to gain traction.

AASP/MA Executive Director Lucky Papageorg is positive about the way things are headed this year. “There is a tremendous amount of conversation taking place on Capitol Hill in support of our bills,” he says. “We are happy to have such great advocates on our side.”

In July, Papageorg, Ray Belsito (Arnie’s Auto Body; Charlton) and Brian Bernard (Total Care Accident Repair; Raynham) testified during the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure on behalf of “An Act relative to the licensure of appraisers” (HB 262, SB 213 and SB 214). This legislation not only seeks to move the ADALB from the DOI to the DOL but would also require term limits for members and add two consumer representatives. (Download the full text of HB 262 at bit.ly/NEARhd2860.) In its current state, the ADALB has been chided for its ineffectiveness and considered biased as the Board members who represent the insurance side outweigh the collision repair side three to two. The proposed changes would level the playing field, especially with the addition of consumer representation which the Board currently lacks.

Papageorg argued that the appraiser damage license is a technical license much like the licenses of other professions such as electricians, plumbers or hairdressers which the DOL already oversees.

“The auto damage appraiser license is a highly technically based license, not an insurance license nor an insurance-carrier related license. Simply put, the auto damage appraiser license is a license of a technical professional who is neither an insurance company nor an insurance producer,” Papageorg stated.

He stressed that these bills would also serve to strengthen the consumer protection mandated under the state general law which created the ADALB. The addition of two new individuals to the Board would “represent the interest of the consumers and avoid partisan disagreements that come up between the insurance industry and the collision repair industry.”

“Consumers within the Commonwealth are lucky we have the ADALB,” Belsito, who serves as AASP/MA’s legislative chair, told the Committee. “It serves as a technical resource for all appraisers insurance and collision repair. It serves as a forum for which differences in opinion regarding repair procedures can be heard. This is a technical license, not a standard insurance license. It’s paramount that all stakeholders affected in the industry are represented but also that one stakeholder should not have more influence than another. This isn’t the case with the current makeup of the ADALB.”

Belsito called the move to the DOL essential in consumer protection.

With more and more changes to vehicle technology making safe and proper repairs critical in protecting consumers, Belsito emphasized, “Insurers don’t have that technical expertise to make these decisions for consumers. To put it bluntly, they should not be making these decisions in a vacuum, as they are.”

In response to opposers who have called the ADALB non-essential and proposed legislation to dissolve the Board, Belsito said, “That statement could not be further from the truth. Even in its current state, the Board acts as a deterrent to the bottom line thinking of insurance that shops deal with daily. The board currently eliminates some of the most egregious repair requests made by insurers that even insurance appraisers don’t agree with. A lot of these requests are so egregious that no insurer would want them aired in front of the ADALB. These include repair versus replace decisions that are not ethical, part sourcing decisions that do not correlate with the vehicle being repaired, even outright denial of certain repair procedures that are necessary for a safe and proper repair. People could have good intentions, but we all know those intentions are trumped by the bottom line each and every day, especially in the insurance world. Trust me when I say this Board is essential…and it’s even more essential that we move it to the DOL.”

Bernard called the ADALB “unbalanced and inherently biased.” The role of the appraiser is to “uniformly access and document damage for consumers. Appraisers should not be divided and categorized as either an insurance appraiser or a repair shop appraiser who are pitted against each other. We should all be held to the same standards.

“We need to let the consumer into the room,” he added. “This move would give the consumer a seat at the table and make the Board accountable.”

Positive messages will hopefully continue to bring on positive results now that legislators are returning to Capitol Hill after the summer break. AASP/MA urges collision repairers to email admin@aaspma.org to sign up for notifications so they don’t miss the call to action. Strength in numbers is key toward change, and the Alliance can’t do it without a collective voice. Be sure to be ready to make your voices heard.

Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of New England Automotive Report!