Sounding the Alarm

by Burl Richards, ABAT President

Time and time again, ABAT has reached out to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to ask why they allow insurance companies to get away with…well, everything.

Time and time again, ABAT has reached out to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to ask why they allow insurance companies to get away with…well, everything from steering to consumer under-indemnification to influencing unsafe repairs by refusing to reimburse shops for OEM required repair procedures or by insisting aftermarket parts be used on the customer’s vehicle.

During our recent call to discuss the consumer complaints that ABAT has been filing on customers’ behalfs, one thing became extremely obvious: TDI is completely out of touch with what’s going on in the Lone Star State!

I guess I have it backwards because I was under the impression that TDI was supposed to govern insurance companies and ensure the fair treatment of consumers, yet they allow insurers to have “prevailing rate” language in policies which relies on a survey TDI never even looks at?

Policy language – approved by TDI – allows insurers to under-indemnify Texas customers, which is why ABAT has taken up the mantle of consumer advocacy and gathered nearly 500 complaints from customers to demonstrate this ongoing BS. But TDI merely passes those documents along to the insurer and accepts whatever they say…without ever reading the complaint.

It would be comical if it wasn’t so sinister. I’m absolutely appalled by how TDI plays the game. They ask for information and proof, and ABAT provides it, only to be told “that’s not enough. We need more.” Or better yet, TDI flat-out refuses to do anything. They basically insist that it’s not their job to understand the collision industry. Although I agree, their job IS to protect consumers – and how can they do that when they don’t understand the ways consumers are being harmed by the under-indemnification issues which are only permitted because of the policy language TDI allows?

TDI has clearly failed to act, but their loyalty to the insurance companies isn’t a surprise, especially knowing that many (if not all) TDI employees have a background in the insurance industry and will likely go to work for them after their TDI tenure ends. Now, to be clear, ABAT has no problem with someone working for an insurance company – unless that loyalty negatively affects how they perform their duty, which is protecting consumers and regulating insurers in TDI’s case. From my perspective, TDI does neither.

ABAT has been sounding the alarm to alert Texans to the fact that insurance companies are under-indemnifying consumers, but TDI just keeps hitting the snooze button – even though they’re wide awake and willingly ignoring what’s happening under their noses. And let’s be honest, I expect TDI to continue doing exactly what they’ve always done when we sound the alarm bell…NOTHING!

Rather than protecting consumers, TDI enables this under-indemnification scheme to transpire and then neglects to address it. This crime needs to stop NOW! I’m tired of the dog and pony shows they put on to “appease” us. It’s been seven years of TDI smiling in our face while we know something isn’t right.

TDI doesn’t have a problem with Texas consumers being taken advantage of, but ABAT does! They’ve told us, “It’s the customer’s fight. Charge them the difference.” That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m a consumer advocate, and I won’t allow anyone to be bullied or harmed without taking up the fight to defend them.

This industry is difficult enough without having to continue bringing TDI’s job to its attention. It’s time for change. It’s time for TDI to stop making excuses and be held accountable for protecting the consumer. If TDI put as much time and effort into protecting consumers as they put into defending insurers, it’d be a different industry overnight.

So, ABAT is sounding the alarm again. I wonder if TDI will finally wake up and get to work.


Want more? Check out the April issue of Texas Automotive!