Can your business
survive without
enforcement of the
1963 CONSENT DECREE?

 
By Dick Strom, owner of Modern Collision Rebuild in Bainbridge Island, WA

 

    As fellow shop owners we know your time is precious, so we will keep this message brief and to the point, asking only that you carefully consider its importance on the future and prosperity of your business.  Then join with us of the Consent Decree Community, in demanding enforcement of the 1963 Consent Decree.  Continuing in the present insurer-repairer-relations path will only make all our businesses (collision, mechanical, glass, and parts/materials jobbers) more unprofitable, and put many of us out of business.  In short, we're asking you to join with the hundreds of shops already signed on in actively supporting the mission of the C.D. Community in seeking legal enforcement of this crucial Decree.  Enforced, it will greatly aid in returning free enterprise in all our businesses. Ignoring it, or assuming others will take up this cause in your stead, will adversely impact the way you do future business. 

 

What the 1963 Consent Decree decrees:

     In November 1963, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), headed by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, settled a class action it had brought against 265 insurance companies, in which the association officers of these companies signed a Consent Decree, known as the 1963 Consent Decree.  Though these insurers never admitted previous wrongdoing, in signing this Decree they agreed to abide by its terms from that day forward - "perpetually" forbidding them from carrying out conspiracy to restrain interstate trade and commerce.  In short, this decree orders them to refrain from "fixing, establishing, maintaining or otherwise controlling the prices to be paid for the appraisal of damage, or to be charged by shops for repair".  Though insurers have since returned to the abusive practices that fostered this Decree, they haven't nullified it.   Enactment of The Decree resulted from the efforts of a small number of repair shop owners discriminated against by the conspiratory, controlling tactics of insurance companies which had brazenly, illegally banded together under the Combined Claims Committee (CCC) to control collision repair prices.  Basically, each CCC member-insurer selected one favored appraiser or appraisal firm in each market area - to the exclusion of others - to receive all of the participating insurerís adjusting work, as long as this adjuster worked within the guidelines that the CCC established and controlled.   In the words of Silvie Licitra, well-respected collision industry writer and a collision repairer during that era, resultant payoffs and corruption were rampant because the selected appraiser fixed the labor rates, required arbitrary discounts on parts, and held firm to the labor times published in a guide.  These appraisers also had shops with which they had unwritten agreements that their estimates would be accepted, sight unseen.  "Those appraisers all had their hands out and if you didn't pay them off, they'd write lousy estimates (creating) a take-it-or-leave-it situation, the shop being faced with losing the job if they didn't play ball (with insurers)."   Sounds all too familiar, doesn't it?

 

Where the 1963 Consent Decree presently stands:

     The DOJ's original enactment and enforcement of the provisions of the 1963 Consent Decree temporarily forced insurers to cease many of the insurance abuses they had previously foisted against consumers and collision repairers. But as older repairers retired, leaving the younger generation with no knowledge of the Decree or the insurance abuses that led to its enacting, insurers incrementally resumed modified variations of the same abusive practices that the Consent Decree forbade.  And so, today we are again faced with insurer-steering, forced discounts, dictated parts procurement, and other abuses which the Decree strictly forbade.  

 

What the ConsentDecree.com Community is doing:

     The Consent Decree Community is a rapidly growing team of concerned businesspeople seeking means of restoring enforcement of this Federal Consent Order.  The C.D. Community has become the focal point for the energy, research, and diligence necessary to bring about industry, consumer, and thus legislative awareness of this Decree, and in educating the repair industry how enforcement of the C.D. will benefit consumers, service providers, and all related industries, in reestablishing free-enterprise.          

  Your help is needed to assure re-enforcement of the 1963 Consent Decree. Though insurers would like us to believe otherwise, the provisions of the 1963 Consent Decree are just as binding today on those insurers that signed it, and their many descendents, as it was then.  Recent contact with the DOJ concerning enforcement of the C.D. indicates they are willing to pursue its re-enforcement only if they have the solid backing of the Congressmen and many businesspeople thus affected, in every state. 

 

Here's what you must do to assure C.D.'s re-enforcement:

1. Access our website, www.consentdecree.com, and join the Consent Decree Community. (though it has been temporarily misplaced, this law is on our side).  Then, access the C.D. website each week for updates.

2. Read up on the issues (the CD website will provide all the information you need to become adequately informed and actively involved).  Read and re-read the text of this Consent Order to realize its intended purpose and how compromise has impacted your future livelihood.

3. Contact your state and federal senators and congressmen: Personal contact is always best, but at very least call or write to voice your concerns.  Keeping in mind that these are busy people, concisely yet accurately word your concerns over the impact that lack of enforcement of C.D. has had on all consumers and your business.

4. Educate your customers, industry association members, and legislators on the content of the C.D., and the impact its disregard has had upon our economy.

5. Hand deliver or send copies of the Consent Decree (easily downloaded from www.consentdecree.com) to all your insurance agents, supervisors, adjusters and appraisers.  Better yet, send them "certified mail" and send photocopies of the "green" receipts to the Consent Decree address below (some insurance personnel have been instructed by their companies to not read this Decree so they can plead ignorance when their abuses are eventually exposed).  

6. Financially support the C.D. community: Though the C.D. has no membership dues, the costs related to enforcing this pivotal Decree (including many meetings with the DOJ) are immense.  Whatever you can donate to this cause is very much appreciated, and we pledge that your money will not be misused.  

7. Send copies of all insurer-generated paperwork that incriminates insurers on discrimination, or other of their many abusive practices, to: ConsentDecree.com, P.O. Box 325, Lionville, PA. 19353

Our website is www.consentdecree.com