IGA Conference Begins with Sessions on Steering, New Directions and Getting to the Heart of It

COLUMBUS, OH, April 30--The Independent Glass Association (IGA) opened its annual convention in Columbus, OH, with sessions about steering, its new direction and a discussion of new pricing models.

The theme of the convention, “Getting to the Heart of It All,” also served as a subtle nod toward the location of the convention—in the heart of the headquarters city of behemoth network installation company Safelite Glass Corporation. The theme was also the title of the first session this morning, presented by Carl Tompkins of Sika Corporation, who spoke about the dangers of downsizing and a number of other topics.

Tompkins was followed by noted “short pay” attorney Charles (Chuck) Lloyd of the Minnesota law firm Livgard and Rabuse. Lloyd began with a review of strategies to avoid being the victim of short payments from the insurance industry. Lloyd reminded the group of the following strategies to avoid short pays, including:
Sending a letter objecting to proposed reimbursement rates;
Rebilling with interest;
Contacing thet customer to follow up on the job and to let them know the insurer is not paying what it promised to pay in insurance policy;
Making a complaint to the insurance regulators in your state:
Getting together with others in your area to share ideas.

Lloyd talked about the legal theories behind lawsuits against networks, insurers and third party administrators. Lloyd said short payments of invoices are actually breaches of contracts and/or the insurance policy itself. It all goes back to what the original insurance policy was.

Consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices were also discussed as points of law involved in short pays and steering. Lloyd defined consumer fraud as cases in which the insurer sells one thing, but delivers something else and said it is especially useful in steering situations. Deceptive trade practice—cases in which the insurer does things that it knows is wrong, usually on a repeated basis-- is used more in short pay situations.

How to Keep Your Jobs
Lloyd also talked about the steps independents can take to help keep jobs from being steered by networks and third party administrators (TPA). He suggested shops do the following:
Educate your customer from the beginning. Tell them that, in order to get work, you have to go through a competitor who will claim to be an insurance company but which is really a competitor;
Tell them the competitor will may things about your company that are not true about price, warranty, installers to get the customer to change his or her mind.
Be factual and accurate in your statements about them;
Be factual and accurate in your statements about you;
If you do mobile service emphasize it—the consumer may not realize that free mobile is an extra.

To Fight the Steer:
Lloyd said independents must use the assignment of insurance proceeds.
He reminded the group to check what your invoices say. They probably still say that if the insurance company doesn’t pay you, then customer is liable. “You are handing the steerers their case on a silver platter by keeping that language. Get rid of it,” he said. “It scares people.”

Warranty issues are also important. The attorney reminded the group that networks with other glass shops throughout the country have a plan for national warranty coverage and that having something in effect is helpful.

Lloyd also advised the group to make sure they the AGRSS standards for installation, and to become certified if certification is important to you.
He admonished the group to try to do the work as soon as possible and don’t let too much time pass. “The longer you wait, the more chance there is that someone else will get there to do it.”

“Try to always be on the phone when the claim is reported,” he said. “Tell the customer that the TPA or whoever is going to try and get you off the call, but that you want to stay. Educate the customer that the competitor may not want you on the phone. The claims administrators don’t want you on the phone.”

Make sure the customer has your company’s name, your name and phone number. “They called my customer or they just showed up and did the job, weren’t they you?”

Lloyd also detailed what to do when you do lose a job, and offer the following tips:
Keep detailed information about the jobs that are lost
-Dates, times, locations and customer names
-What was said to the customer and by whom
-What you did to try and save the job
-Share the information
1. -With the IGA
2. -With State Associations
3. -With Regulators, especially in those states that have right-to-choose laws;
4. -With Insurers, especially those insurers that say they respect the customers right to choose.

Legal Theories
Lloyd then provided background information about the various statutes and laws that would be used if an attempt were made to sue networks and TPAs for their practices.
He said the Federal Lanham Act isdesigned to bring sanctions against unfair competition. “If a glass shop answers a phone and says they are an insurance company, they have passed themselves off as something they are not. You get damages for that, triple damages and you get their profits from the job, you can even get an injunction and recoup attorney’s fees,” he said.

Lloyd says consumer protective and deceptive trade practices laws may also be used, and that there are also common law claims, including tortuous interference, antitrust law, disparagement (the commercial version of defamation), and RICO have all been used. RICO is also being used by doctors in Florida against third party claims administrators, but in general, the courts don’t like RICO because it’s been overused.

“Market size and identity are critical issues in antitrust cases. How you define a particular market is a big issue,” he said, “and the issue becomes ‘Who monopolizes that market?’ Nobody. In antitrust the game is won or lost in the definition of the market,” he added.

Lloyd also addressed an issue he felt is a real hindurance to such litigation. “We’ve got this other little problem-the “dirty little secret”—cash pricing. It’s a really big problem in an antitrust case. How can you say our prices are too low, when the market offers those prices themselves?”

He also talked about how many glass shops are closing down. “Next year you ought to have a montage of people that are no longer in this business, like they do at the academy awards. It would be very sad. Let’s try and make that list really short next year.”

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