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Report: Conn. AG supports body shops against The Hartford

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Feb. 25, 2010—Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is supporting the Auto Body Association of Connecticut as it seeks to prevent Hartford Fire Insurance Co., a subsidiary of The Hartford Financial Services Group, from exclusively using in-house appraisers in damage cases, according to a report Thursday in the Hartford Courant.

The exclusive use of in-house appraisers leads to damage appraisals that have low labor rates. This forces auto body shops to charge labor rates lower than what the market allows.

"The state has an interest in preventing the unfair suppression of labor rates that significantly harms the state's economy and results in extreme economic hardship for independent automobile body repair shops,” Blumenthal wrote in a court filing.

Thomas Hambrick, a spokesman for Hartford Fire Insurance, says the insurer is disappointed that the attorney general has chosen to support the body shop position that is intended to increase costs for Connecticut consumers.

"It is important to us that our customers have access to a repair program that provides great service at a fair price," Hambrick told the Hartford Courant.

The Hartford Courant reports that Blumenthal has pressed for strengthening laws regulating how insurance companies deal with car repairs, and he could participate in the court proceeding if his status as an intervener is accepted.

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