Starting Aug. 1, auto insurance companies in Minnesota will be required to allow customers the freedom to choose any auto rental company if the customer has car replacement in his or her collision coverage. Insurers are allowed to recommend a company to a consumer, but are prohibited from making this a stipulation of service.
SF 508, signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton May 25, mandates that insurance claims representatives will have to give customers obtaining a replacement car rental a verbal advisory, which reads, "Minnesota law gives you the right to choose any rental vehicle company, and prohibits me from requiring you to choose a particular vendor."
The road to that legislation was paved by a precedent-setting bill in New York State, a Minnesota anti-steering law already in place regarding glass repairs and a grassroots effort by a local car rental operator who saw that change was needed.
Laying the Groundwork
"I lived at the Capitol just talking with as many people as I could and monitoring the process because we didn't have any funds for lobbyists," says McKenzie Prokosch, account relations manager for Choice Auto Rental, a locally owned provider of insurance replacements.
Prokosch spent most her time meeting with the legislative commerce committee members and organizations in support of the cause. "I don't have any political experience, but I wasn't afraid to ask questions, whether it was to the [committee] members or their legislative assistants," she says.
More than 40 auto body shops joined in by signing a letter sent to legislators urging them to pass SF 508. The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers and the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association were also on board, along with eight other auto rental companies. "There are a lot of other locally owned companies here fighting the same battle," she says. "We just wanted to be able to compete, and also for consumers to know they had an option."
A New York anti-steering bill passed last year helped to lay the groundwork for Prokosch and the authors of the Minnesota law. The grassroots effort in New York gave these small rental companies the incentive and hope for a victory in Minnesota.
"I was expecting it to take years," says Prokosch, referencing the New York process, which had taken four years. The Minnesota legislation was pushed through in about four months.