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July/August  2004

Independent's Day
    an IGA viewpoint

IGA On a Mission
by Sue Johnson

Any glass shop owner around the country can outline the problems in the industry in minutes. There is general consensus that falling reimbursement rates coupled with aggressive and illegal steering are leaving a once competitive industry in shambles. It is much more difficult, however, to get consensus on how to solve the problems plaguing our industry. 

The board of directors of the Independent Glass Association (IGA) has spent the better part of two years researching possible legal remedies to some of the issues facing auto glass shop owners and have developed a plan to act. The board understands that independent auto glass shops are stressed to the breaking point. Without an organized and collective action now, we will continue to see going-out-of-business sales taking place at an increasing numbers of shops.

The board is developing a two-pronged approach to solving the crisis in our industry.

First, it has set up a legal fund in order to raise money to mount a major national litigation campaign. We believe there is vast evidence to suggest that certain major networks have conspired with insurers to cheat consumers out of their policy benefits and to disrespect consumer’s choice when deciding on an auto glass vendor. As a result, tens of thousands of jobs are being stolen from independent glass shops and diverted to a chosen few big players.

Using the federal Lanham Act is one clear legal option open to glass shops that choose to participate in the national litigation strategy. The Lanham Act makes it illegal for any person to use any false or misleading representation of fact, which is likely to cause confusion in the commercial activities of another person. Does this sound familiar to any of you? In addition, the Lanham Act provides civil awards that cover lost profits, attorney fees and treble damages.

The board is also looking at developing regional legal actions against insurers that routinely engage in deceptive and fraudulent trade practices. The IGA will work with leaders in the industry to build and strengthen its state chapters to initiate suits against companies that are violating consumers’ rights and the law.

“Our organization is well positioned to initiate a major national suit while helping state chapters develop regional litigation strategies,” said Kurt Muller, president of the IGA board. “In the past we have relied on the individual actions of a few shops to define the problem and pursue legal remedies. The problem with that approach is that it is very costly for one shop to shoulder the burden of initiating a legal action against some of the largest companies in the country. We now have the organization in place to pool the resources of glass shops from around the country to act together to solve the common problems facing our industry,” said Muller.

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