Windshield company accused of breaking law with $100 rebates

Attorney General Mike Hatch took Glass Service Co. to court Tuesday, accusing the company of violating state law by giving $100 rebates to auto glass customers.

The complaint, filed in Hennepin County District Court, seeks an injunction to keep the company from breaking the law, which took effect in March.Deputy Attorney General Lori Swanson said an investigator verified that Glass Service was offering the rebates, making good on its promise last month to defy the law.Company President George Corporaal said Oct. 18 that he would challenge the law, saying his company and others might go out of business if they couldn't offer incentives.The ban on promotional gifts applies only to glass work paid for in whole or in part by insurance.

"We really do expect to win," Corporaal said Tuesday from his Florida home.

"We really do feel that giving $100 to our customers is one of our constitutional rights," he said. "It's a free enterprise system. You're supposed to have freedom of speech."

John Boulay, president of the Minnesota Independent Auto Glass Association, said the law "has had a tremendously negative impact on our entire industry."

"Without the ability to market to our consumers, insurance companies and large glass shops are easily able to steer business away from smaller independent shops," he said.

Boulay said some family-owned shops have laid off employees, and some have gone out of business.

Shul Kwak, Glass Service's attorney, said other companies have offered incentives. He asked that the attorney general's office file complaints against them as well.

"We continue to believe the law is unconstitutional," he said. "It violates the First Amendment [right to] commercial free speech. It violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It could possibly infringe upon the commerce clause."

Swanson said the company should have gone to court to get a judgment declaring the law unconstitutional.

"In this case what we have is a company deciding it doesn't like the statute and therefore will violate the statute instead of pursuing proper legal recourse," she said.

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