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Safelite auto-glass replacement practice challenged by glass-repair resin maker

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Columbus-based Safelite is defending itself in federal court from a lawsuit challenging the company’s support for the so-called “dollar-bill rule” as a guide to determine whether to repair or replace cracked auto glass.

According to this widely used rule, a crack can safely be repaired if it is smaller than a dollar bill. The plaintiff, Colorado-based Ultra Bond Inc., makes resins used to repair cracked glass. It says the rule leads to expensive windshield replacements in many cases when repair is often a better option.

“Safelite spreads its literal falsehood about the six-inch or dollar-bill rule, not only in its own advertisements to individual consumers about (auto-glass) services and but also in marketing content that Safelite drafts and provides to third parties to disseminate to consumers,” says an amended complained filed by Ultra Bond last week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Safelite is the country’s largest retailer of auto glass products and services, and the largest provider of insurance processing services to pay for the work.

The new complaint is the latest episode in a case that has been active since 2015, and a corporate rivalry that has existed for much longer.

Ultra Bond filed the amended the complaint after the court dismissed a parts of a previous complaint, a fact that Safelite notes in a new motion to dismiss it filed last week.

“Unsurprisingly, (Ultra Bond disagrees with) the dollar-bill rule,” Safelite says in a filing. “But they have not convinced the nation’s insurance companies, auto-glass shops, or end consumers to embrace their products. So they have repeatedly turned to the courts to manipulate the market in their favor.”

State laws vary about what constitutes an unsafe level of damage to auto glass. In Ohio, the law does not specifically discuss glass, but does say that there is a general requirement that a vehicle be in safe condition.

In the 57-page amended complaint, Ultra Bond alleges that Safelite knows the dollar-bill rule has little or no basis but continues to support the guidelines because it is good for business. The complaint cites Safelite’s internal documents, portions of which are heavily redacted in the public version of the filing.

Safelite responds that the documents to do not say what Ultra Bond is alleging, and adds that the amended complaint is largely rehashing arguments that the court already dismissed.

Ultra Bond’s founder and owner is Richard Campfield, is a longtime critic of Safelite, which he has accused of using its market power to harm independent glass shops. Reached for comment, he referred questions to his attorney.


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