Insurance

Insurance

For 30 years, Consumer Watchdog has been the nation's leading insurance reform organization. We have saved consumers billions of dollars, developed innovative consumer programs and reversed some of the most anti-consumer insurance policies in the industry.

In 1988, Californians revolted against excessive auto, homeowner and business insurance premiums and passed Proposition 103, a ballot measure written by Consumer Watchdog founder Harvey Rosenfield to rein in insurance companies. Using the provisions of Prop 103, Consumer Watchdog has challenged rate hikes and lowered insurance rates by billions of dollars. The insurance reform has saved Californians over $100 billion over the last thirty years according to the Consumer Federation of America. California is the only state where auto insurance rates have gone down in real dollars over the last three decades. It's also the only state to ban ZIP-code based auto insurance, which Proposition 103 also did.

Today, Consumer Watchdog's legal team and advocates scrutinize all major rate hike proposals made by auto and home insurers in California and play an integral role in many of the regulatory actions enacted by the California Department of Insurance.

We use our experience to show how regulation can work to save consumers and spur competition, as California has the most robust auto insurance market in America.

 

Focus Areas:

Lara Defies Transparency: Refuses To Confirm Or Deny Whether He Or Department Met With Nunez, Serna and Other Known Applied Underwriters Lobbyists In PRA Litigation

Los Angeles, CA -- In responses to requests for admissions in pending litigation, Insurance Commissioner Lara’s Department has refused to answer straightforward questions about meetings and communications between the Department and known lobbyists for Applied Underwriters.   

The outright refusal to confirm or deny whether meetings and communications took place is not only a violation of the Public Records Act (PRA) but also a betrayal of Lara’s pledge for full transparency in the wake of the pay to play scandal involving Applied Underwriters, Consumer Watchdog said.

Auto Insurance Companies Overcharged California Motorists $5.5 Billion During the First Year of Pandemic, Study Shows

Los Angeles, CA -- While the vast majority of Californians drove far less last year, most California insurance companies continued to charge pre-pandemic auto insurance rates, reaping a windfall of about $5.5 billion, according to an analysis by Consumer Watchdog. Newly published 2020 data show that accident claims plummeted as cars idled in driveways, but insurance companies failed to reduce rates accordingly.

California Insurance Commissioner’s Wildfire Working Group Embraces Insurance Industry Wish List at Expense of Consumers and Taxpayers

Los Angeles, CA -- A group convened by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to investigate insurance-related climate change solutions is recommending he let insurance companies insert secret models into ratemaking, a top deregulatory priority of the industry in California.  
 

California Moves to Curb Discriminatory Auto Insurance Pricing Using Job and Education Level That Charges Lower-Income, Non-White Drivers More

Sacramento, CA – Insurance companies’ illegal use of job and education level to price auto insurance discriminates against lower income drivers and communities of color and must end, Consumer Watchdog will testify at a California Department of Insurance workshop this afternoon.

Supreme Court Confirms Right to Sue Insurance Companies for Overcharges

Decision Rebuffs Industry Arguments Against Proposition 103 Enforcement Rights

Los Angeles, CA -- In a decision that will likely affect California motorists, homeowners, small businesses and even medical providers, the California Supreme Court has ruled that insurance companies are not immune from lawsuits by consumers who were overcharged for title insurance coverage as part of a home refinance or sale. 

California Moves to Curtail Job and Education-Based Auto Insurance Discrimination

Sacramento, CA -- Draft regulations released by the Department of Insurance Thursday move California one step closer to stopping auto insurance discrimination that has allowed insurers to overcharge lower income and minority drivers for decades, said Consumer Watchdog. The rules follow a petition submitted by Consumer Watchdog and ten civil rights and community groups to ban the use of job and education level in auto insurance rating.

KGO ABC TV-7 San Francisco, CA: 'Catastrophic Model' Could Be Used To Set Your Fire Insurance Rates

Insurance Companies Created Home Insurance Crisis, Consumer Watchdog Testifies at Department of Insurance Wildfire Hearing

Los Angeles, CA -- The insurance industry is exploiting California wildfires for its own financial advantage by arbitrarily refusing to sell or renew homeowners’ insurance coverage, even when people improve the fire safety of their property, Consumer Watchdog testified today at a virtual hearing convened by California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

Wildfire Recovery: Insurance Tips for California Homeowners

 

With 33 active fires and 3.6 million acres burned, including the largest in California history, tens of thousands of Californians have been displaced by the ongoing wildfires. They will need help getting back on their feet when they are finally able to return home.

On today’s Rage for Justice Report podcast, I interviewed Amy Bach, the executive director of the nonprofit United Policyholders. Her website is California’s – and perhaps the country’s – best resource for detailed how-to guides on what to do when disaster strikes.

Insurers Fail To Rip-off Homeowners

The legislative session is over. I am happy to report that the bad guys didn’t win.

Insurance companies were not able to pass legislation in Sacramento allowing them to raise rates on homeowners in fire zones in violation of strict premium regulation created by voter-approved Prop 103. Thanks to your support, the State Senate refused to pass a dangerous insurance industry-backed bill by Assembly member Tom Daly.

Insurance Commissioner to Investigate Key Wildfire Insurance Issues Under Legislation Headed to Senate Floor

Sacramento, CA -- California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara would investigate and develop solutions to ensure affordable, accessible insurance for homeowners in wildfire areas and report back to the legislature, under amendments to AB 2167 adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday. The bill asks the Commissioner to study the models insurance companies use to set home and renters insurance rates, strategies to address problems in the insurance markets, and the price and pass-through of “reinsurance” expenses. The bill now heads for a vote by the full Senate.

California State Legislators Use Coronavirus As An Excuse To Hijack Democratic Process

The following was originally published as an op-ed commentary in the SACRAMENTO BEE on August 11, 2020: https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/article244870462.html

Three democratic procedures safeguard Californians against hasty and dangerous actions by the California State Legislature:

▪ Every bill gets a legislative hearing.

▪ Committee staff provides an impartial analysis of each bill.

▪ Members of the public are heard. 

National Insurance Expert Warns CA Bill to Deregulate Homeowner Insurance Will Hike Rates 40% In First Year; Senate Vote Tomorrow

Los Angeles, CA -- A national insurance expert and actuary has warned California lawmakers that AB 2167, scheduled for a vote in the Senate Insurance Committee on Tuesday, would raise homeowners’ insurance rates by 40% in the first year it takes effect and make it harder for Californians to find coverage.

Legislators Scheming With Insurance Companies To Raise Rates

(The following was originally published as an op-ed commentary in the Mercury News.)

With Californians in COVID lockdown, industry lobbyists are working to overturn voter-approved consumer protections

August 2, 2020

State lawmakers are preparing a gift for you: a massive increase in the premiums you pay to insure your home and property.

Insurance Industry Gives CA Senators $2.35 Million To Win Right To Raise Homeowners' Rates

Sacramento, CA – Members of the California State Senate have taken $2,353,000 in campaign contributions from insurance companies and insurance industry trade associations in the last two election cycles, according to data reported to the California Secretary of State. Of that total, $1.1 million was given to the thirteen Senators who sit on the Insurance Committee that will soon vote on the insurance industry’s top priority in Sacramento this year.

Sneak Insurance Industry Power Play In Sacramento Threatens To Jack Up Home Insurance Rates In Violation of Voter-Enacted Insurance Rate Regulation

Los Angeles, CA – Consumer Watchdog warned today that homeowners could pay billions more for their home insurance under a sneak insurance industry legislative attack on California’s effective rate regulation under the cover of the corona virus and police abuse crises.

Assembly Insurance Committee Approves Bills to Let Insurers Raise Homeowners' Rates By Skirting Price-Gouging Protections

Sacramento, CA –  The Assembly Insurance Committee voted today to allow insurance companies to raise rates on homeowners and renters in violation of voter-approved Proposition 103.  The bills would force unjustified insurance rate hikes onhomeowners in the very communities devastated by wildfires that they purport to help, said Consumer Watchdog.

Insurance Industry Pushes Legislation to Increase Homeowners Insurance Rates, Derail Public Protections Against Price Gouging, in Guise of Wildfire Response

Los Angeles, CA — While the rest of the state is sheltering at home, lobbyists for the insurance industry are busy promoting legislation, scheduled for a hearing tomorrow, that would allow them to boost insurance rates on homeowners and renters.

State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara Should Stop All Auto Insurance Rate Increases During Pandemic, Says Consumer Watchdog

Los Angeles, CA – Consumer Watchdog today called on Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to suspend all increases in auto insurance rates through September 1, or the termination of shelter-in-place restrictions, whichever comes later.

Read the letter to the Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

ABC TV-7 Chicago, IL: Consumer Watchdog On How Shortfalls Of CARES Act May Not Cover COVID-19 Tests

Transamerica Settles Lawsuit Concerning Increases in “Cost of Insurance” Charges

Los Angeles, CA – Transamerica Life Insurance Company has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of policyholders across the United States alleging that Transamerica improperly increased themonthly charges that the company withdrew from the accounts of policyholders who own“TransUltra 115 98/99” or “TransSurvivor 115 97/98/99” “universal life” insurance policies.Transamerica increased the monthly deduction charges on those policies in October 2017 and June 2018, respectively.

Commissioner Lara Should Reject Farmers’ Auto Insurance Rate Hikes and Stop Surcharges Aimed At COVID-19 First Responders and Emergency Workers, Says Consumer Watchdog

Los Angeles, CA – Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara should reject Farmers Insurance Group’s proposed 6.5–6.9% auto insurance rate increases and its 3-tiered rating system based on occupation under which first responders and essential workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 pay higher rates, wrote Consumer Watchdog in a letter to the Commissioner today. Farmers’ request comes as a deadly pandemic sweeps California, for which virtually every California business has been ordered to close and residents ordered to stay home.

Insurance Lobbyists Launch Propaganda Campaign to Protect Their Ability To Overcharge Poor & Minority Drivers

Sacramento, CA -- The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) has launched a deceptive website, at www.protectourdiscounts.org, and advertising campaign to protect insurers’ ability to continue overcharging lower income and minority drivers for their auto insurance.

Proposed Rule Moves Department of Insurance Closer to Banning Illegal Price Discrimination Against Low-Income Drivers and Communities of Color

In comments submitted on proposed regulations Consumer Watchdog said rule could ban discrimination based on drivers’ occupation and education level; called for key amendments to ensure discrimination based on race and socioeconomic status ends.

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara Sued for Failure to Provide Public Records of Dealings With Insurance Executives in Pay-to-Play Scandal

Los Angeles, CA -- A non-profit consumer group filed a lawsuit to compel California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and the Department of Insurance to hand over records of Lara’s meetings and communications with insurance companies that used campaign contributions in an apparent attempt to influence policy decisions.

Download the lawsuit here: https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/Petition%2…

Commissioner Lara Should Reject Job & Education-Based Insurance Discrimination, Says Consumer Watchdog

Los Angeles, CA – Consumer Watchdog said in a letter today that Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara should reject a proposed 5% auto insurance rate increase by Mercury Insurance Company that discriminates against lower income, less-educated drivers.

Reaction To New CA Insurance Department Rules To Limit Education & Occupation In Auto Insurance

Los Angeles, CA –  “A year ago, Consumer Watchdog and organizations representing consumers, low-income workers and communities of color petitioned Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to ban the use of occupation and education to set auto insurance premiums. These unfair surcharges on lower-income and less-educated drivers drive up the cost of insurance for people who can least afford it.

Data Shows Insurance Companies Use Occupation and Education to Segregate and Overcharge Communities of Color And Blue-Collar California Drivers

Los Angeles, CA -- An analysis of new data obtained from insurance companies by the California Department of Insurance (“CDI”) confirms complaints by Consumer Watchdog and other citizen groups that insurance companies are surcharging motorists based on their occupation or educational status, in violation of insurance reform Proposition 103.

CA Dept of Insurance Confirms Ongoing Insurance Discrimination Based on Education and Profession Affinity Groups

Consumer Watchdog Writes Attorney General & District Attorneys To Investigate IC Ricardo Lara Over Bribery and Money Laundering

Los Angeles, CA – The nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog has written California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the District Attorneys of Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles calling for an investigation of money laundering and bribery relating to the fundraising scandal engulfing California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

Consumer Watchdog Asks Attorney General And DAs To Investigate CA Insurance Commissioner Over Apparently Illegal Payments For Second Home In Sacramento

Los Angeles, CA –  Following a Politico report that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara billed the state for his Sacramento apartment, Consumer Watchdog has called on Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the District Attorneys for Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco counties to launch an investigation over the potential theft of public funds.

Californians in High Fire Risk Areas Facing Increased Rates and Non-Renewals

Watchdog Says Insurance Commissioner Lara Is Not Doing Everything In His Power To Help Homeowners Dealing With Wildfire Insurance

Ricardo Lara’s Troubles Aside, Reverting To An Appointed Insurance Commissioner Would Hurt Consumers

Where the troubling trail of accusations dogging Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will lead is hard to tell. State records show that insurance industry executives and their relatives gave tens of thousands of dollars to Lara’s campaign committee–even as he intervened on their behalf in cases before his agency. 

We’ll know more on Aug. 31. That’s when Lara has promised to make public his communications and calendars of meetings with the executives.

CA Supreme Court Puts an End to Mercury Insurance Company’s 20-Year Battle to Escape Accountability for Unlawful Fees 

Los Angeles, CA -- Mercury Insurance Company will pay at least $27.6 million in civil penalties for overcharging hundreds of thousands of California motorists in violation of insurance reform Proposition 103. Late yesterday, the California Supreme Court rejected the company’s last-ditch effort to evade the fine – the largest ever against a car insurance company in California.

Advocates Call for Withdrawal of Insurance Commissioner Lara’s Bill to Give Insurers & Wall Street Blank Check From CA Taxpayers

Los Angeles, CA -- Consumer Watchdog said legislation sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and scheduled for a vote Wednesday would needlessly expose California taxpayers to the same kind of complex and risky financial instruments that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

The bill would allow the state to purchase insurance and other financial products with none of the usual state oversight, including insurance regulation by Commissioner Lara’s own Department of Insurance and procurement rules at the Department of General Services.

Ricardo Lara Wants To Give Insurance Companies Your Driving Data

Insurance Commissioner Lara Delays Calendar Release Another Month

Los Angeles, CA – Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s office will delay disclosure of the Commissioner’s calendar or records of his meetings with insurance companies to August 31st, according to a communication sent to Consumer Watchdog.

Commissioner Lara said that he would disclose his calendars in response to revelations that he took $54,300 in campaign contributions from insurance executives and their spouses, took actions that benefited the insurance company connected to three of those donors, and met with the company’s CEO.

Consumer Watchdog Seeks Disclosures Regarding Influence-Peddling Scandal Under Public Records Act

Los Angeles, CA -- The non-profit, non-partisan Consumer Watchdog gave California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara until July 31 to produce public records related to his meetings with insurance industry representatives who gave him $54,300 in campaign contributions in a letter sent late last week. 

Insurance Commissioner Lara Gives Insurance Industry Money Back, But Questions Remain About Circumstances Of Influence-Peddling At Agency

Los Angeles, CA -- Consumer Watchdog said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s decision to return over $54,000 in contributions from donors tied to a company seeking the Commissioner’s approval for an acquisition was an “important first step that protects the credibility of the elected position you hold.” The non-profit advocacy organization urged the Commissioner to return the money in a letter yesterday.

California Insurance Commisioner Ricardo Lara Receives “D” Average on Report Card

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Los Angeles, CA – California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who has approved $292 million in auto and homeowners’ insurance rate increases since being elected, has received a “D” average from the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog on his first four-month report card.

Ricardo Lara Puts Brakes On California's Climate Leadership

Los Angeles, CA — On Earth Day, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara chose “collaboration" with the insurance industry over urgent climate action. Commissioner Lara rejected a petition from 60 environmental, consumer and social justice groups that sought emergency rules to make insurers disclose the fossil fuel projects they insure. The Commissioner's refusal to act allows insurers to keep their complicity in global warming secret and puts the brakes on the forward momentum on climate built by the previous Department of Insurance, said Consumer Watchdog.

Insurance Companies Are Charging Drivers Without A College Degree More for Auto Insurance

Insurance Commissioner Promises Hearings – But Sets No Timeline To Stop Auto Insurance Discrimination

Statement of Consumer Watchdog: “Thirty days ago, Consumer Watchdog and ten other organizations petitioned Insurance Commissioner Riccardo Lara to stop insurance companies’ discrimination against low-income drivers and communities of color based on their education or occupation.

Public Interest Groups Seek Nation’s First Rule Mandating Insurance Companies Disclose the Fossil Fuel Projects They Insure

Los Angeles, CA --- More than 60 environmental, consumer and social justice organizations petitioned California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today seeking first in the nation emergency regulations to require insurance companies to disclose the fossil fuel projects they insure, even as climate change-exacerbated catastrophes are costing insurance companies billions.

​​​​​​​Community Groups Petition California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara To Ban Use of Occupation and Education to Price Auto Insurance 

Los Angeles, CA – Community organizations representing consumers, low-income workers and communities of color petitioned Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today to ban the use of occupation and education to set auto insurance premiums. Many California auto insurance companies charge lower-income and less-educated drivers up to 15% more in order to give discounts to doctors, lawyers, other well-paying professions, and drivers with college degrees. The surcharge is illegal under California’s insurance reform law, Proposition 103.

Consumer Federation of America says California auto insurance protections are a model for the nation

The nonprofit Consumer Federation of America released a study this week finding that California’s tough “prior approval” regulation of auto insurance rates under Proposition 103 is a model for the nation. Nearly 30 years of insurance industry data show that California has maintained the slowest pace of premium growth of any state and built the second most competitive auto insurance market in the nation.

Consumer Watchdog Applauds New California Rules Ending Gender-Based Discrimination in Auto Insurance Pricing

Los Angeles, CA – California auto insurers may no longer charge drivers more based on their gender under new rules just issued by the California Department of Insurance.

The rules bring auto insurance prices into line with the provisions of voter-approved Proposition 103 that prohibit unfair and discriminatory pricing and require rates to be based primarily on a person’s driving record and experience, not personal characteristics.

Top 10 US Insurance Companies Invest $51 Billion In Fossil Fuels

Los Angeles, CA — As a UN panel finds the world is losing the war with global warming and urgent action is needed, US insurance companies have reported holding more than $50.9 billion in fossil fuel investments that exacerbate climate change, according to reporting to national insurance regulators.

Consumer Watchdog’s review of public filings reveals nine of the 10 largest American insurance companies have considered the impact of climate change on their investments, but only two, AIG and Farmers, say that they have altered their investment strategy in response.

Consumer Watchdog To Insurance Companies: Stop Underwriting Fossil Fuel Projects That Exacerbate Fires And Hurricanes

San Francisco, CA – The nonprofit consumer group responsible for the most effective regulation of the insurance industry in America said today it would be challenging America’s insurance companies to join their European counterparts in refusing to underwrite coal and fossil fuel projects.

​​​​​​​US Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Mercury Insurance Challenge to Prop 103 Insurance Rules that Saved California Motorists Over $100 Billion

SANTA MONICA, CA - The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a challenge brought by Mercury Insurance, State Farm and other insurance companies across the United States to insurance reform Proposition 103. That California law has saved motorists over $100 billion since 1988 by regulating insurance companies to limit price gouging, profiteering, inflated executive salaries and other unjustified expenses. (Mercury Casualty Company v.

Consumer Watchdog’s Prop 103 Challenges Bring $227 Million in Insurance Rate Savings

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog’s challenges filed under Proposition 103 to proposed auto, home and business insurance rate increases saved consumers $227.4 million in 2017, the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group said today.

Since 2003, the group’s challenges in rate proceedings before the Department of Insurance have saved consumers a total of $3.4 billion. Savings have averaged a little more than a quarter of a billion dollars – $227 million – per year.

Wildfires Should Ignite Crackdown on State Farm To Be Better Neighbor

The wildfires devastating Bel Air, Ventura and Southern California's canyons are destroying homes in their path. Unfortunately, many of those homeowners are going to find that when they try to rebuild their homeowners' policies may not cover the real costs.

It's a sad cycle that happens after too many wildfires, include the historic devastation fires wrought recently in Sonoma and Napa Valley. 

California Regulators Require Auto Insurers To Adjust Rates

This story was co-published with Consumer Reports.

California regulators said they have required Nationwide and USAA to adjust their auto insurance rates as a result of a report by ProPublica and Consumer Reports that many minority neighborhoods were paying more than white areas with the same risk.

California Dept. of Insurance Says It Has Stopped Overcharges Exposed by ProPublica

Santa Monica, CA -- Acting in response to an investigative report by journalists at ProPublica, the California Department of Insurance has ordered two insurance companies – Nationwide and USAA – to not charge motorists in minority neighborhoods more than motorists with similar risk profiles who live in predominantly white neighborhoods. California voters banned zip code-based insurance pricing when they passed Proposition 103 to prevent auto insurers from discriminating against minority drivers.

Farmers Insurance Asks Court To Block State Review Of Auto Rates And A Possible Refund Order

Farmers Insurance has asked a court to block a state review of its auto insurance rates dating to 2008, making it the latest case to test the limits of California’s landmark insurance law, Proposition 103.

The Woodland Hills firm, a unit of Swiss multinational Zurich Insurance Group, argued in a lawsuit last week that a plan by the Department of Insurance to review the rates — which are being challenged by a group of consumers in a separate case — is “unlawful under applicable law and current facts” and should be called off.

Consumer Watchdog Petitions Commissioner to Stop Travelers from Overcharging Small Business Owners

Santa Monica, CA – Consumer Watchdog has filed a petition challenging the insurance rates that two companies in the Travelers Group want to charge small businesses. The consumer group is seeking a 20% cut to the rates Travelers currently charges, which would deliver about $20 million in savings to policyholders.

Travelers’ rate proposal would affect nearly 16,000 businesses in the companies’ Master Pac program that provides liability and property coverage for small businesses such as barber shops, pet sitters, employment agencies, speech therapists, and car washes.

Consumer Watchdog Calls On Insurance Commissioner To Investigate If Insurers Are Violating Prop 103 By Pricing Based On Zip-Code

Santa Monica, CA – An analysis released today by non-profit journalists at ProPublica finds that four auto insurance companies in California mark up prices by as much as 32% for drivers in minority neighborhoods as compared to white neighborhoods with similar risk.