ABAT’s Tuggle Talks Right to Appraisal, Texas Legislative Efforts at CIC

by Alana Quarrtuccio

ABAT’s battle cry for consumer rights in the legislative arena continues to be heard far and wide.

The association has become well known throughout the industry as advocates for change. In fact, their work even earned them national recognition from the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) last fall at the Collision Industry Conference’s (CIC) 40th Anniversary Red Carpet Award ceremony where they were championed for “not just advocating, but specifically the work that they do with lawmakers to make sure they understand the issues that collision repairers are having in their state and how they are impacting consumers” (see grecopublishing.com/texas-automotive-december-2023).

Most recently, ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle was invited to the CIC stage in Seattle, WA to join fellow local and national industry leaders in a panel discussion that covered legislative trends, expectations and insight into what collision shop owners can do at the local level to advocate for change. 

In response to Governmental Committee Chair Bob Redding’s (Automotive Service Association) query about state legislative trends, Tuggle pointed to some unique legislative efforts taking place in individual states such as South Carolina and Massachusetts, in addition to Texas. “We’ve got a great affiliate group where we communicate about these items, thanks to SCRS and Aaron [Schulenburg] facilitating these conversations,” she shared. “Each state is trying to pass legislation in regard to unique issues they face. Many states are submitting bills that address OE repair procedures, trying to get traction on getting proper compensation for consumers.”

Tuggle identified Right to Appraisal at the top of the list. “We submitted that bill twice in Texas, and it’s high on our agenda for 2025. I believe South Carolina also has Right to Appraisal in their current bill and Nebraska as well. I’m sure we’ll be seeing it in other states soon, if they are not currently [pursuing it].” Contiguously, fellow panelist Jeff Butler of the Washington Independent Collision Repair Association stated his state has also sponsored legislation in support of OEM repair procedures and Right to Appraisal. 

Tuggle gave the CIC audience a rundown of what led ABAT to pursue legislation in support of Right to Appraisal. “When Right to Appraisal was removed from some insurance policies, we were able to get the attention of the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI). It was kind of an ‘uh-oh’ moment for them when they realized that they let these policies sneak through. It is outlined on their website that the Right to Appraisal is a consumer right, but there is nothing anywhere on the legal books in the state.”

Although they have gotten the attention of the TDI and the Office of Public Insurance Council, “We really need to get some legislation passed. So, while we will be submitting our safe repairs bill and championing that all the way to the finish line, the Right to Appraisal is going to be something we also put extra effort into.” 

Collision repairers want to produce no less than safe repairs, therefore states like Texas and Washington have pursued legislation that pushes for safe repairs; however, the opposing side has tried to twist their quest as being “anti-parts.” 

“Insurers are not aligned with the legislation we want to pass yet,” Butler observed.

Tuggle shared in the sentiment by stating, “We experienced the same thing in Texas, where we submitted what we call the safe repairs bill, and our opposition repurposed that name and turned it into the OEM parts bill; it was not that whatsoever. In fact, we removed any OEM parts language from the bill a couple of sessions ago. 

“We do want to create some safe standard for aftermarket parts,” she continued. “We want to create some standards for the parts that we use to fix those vehicles. A lot of our members, and I’m sure many people in America, agree that they would actually make more money repairing a vehicle with aftermarket parts, if those parts were tested for the same strength, weight and fitment so they have a little bit more peace of mind that the parts would fit properly and crash the same way. That’s really kind of the only thing parts-wise that enters into our bill language.” 

Tuggle stressed her belief that “collision repairers have the power to change policy both on the state and national level. The most important thing that we can do is use our voice. Oftentimes, our opposition has very deep pockets. It would take years and years for us independent repairers to pool the money and resources necessary to get some of the meetings they can get together very easily.

“Legislators care about their constituents,” she went on to explain. “And they know that when the session is over, they have to go back and look you in the face. They have to see you at the barbecue joint, and they have to answer to you on why they voted against something that is very important to your business or voted for something that fits your business. Using our voices is the most important thing that we can do.”

Want more? Check out the June 2024 issue of Texas Automotive!