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.
Los Angeles, CA – Consumer Watchdog joined 39 other public interest organizations in comments calling on the Federal Insurance Office to spotlight how the insurance industry contributes to climate change by insuring fossil fuel projects. A 2019 petition on this topic to California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara was denied.
Los Angeles, CA – Consumer groups said a regulation proposed by California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to require discounts for homeowners who take home-hardening steps to reduce their risk of damage from wildfires must also apply to insurance companies' decisions about which properties they will insure. California homeowners, businesses and communities face unfair price increases and non-renewals, and new wildfire mitigation rules must protect against both, said the groups today at a public hearing convened by the Department of Insurance.
San Diego, CA – The Insurance Commissioner cannot force insurance companies to repay consumers when they charge excessive rates, the state Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled late Friday afternoon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When disaster hits, insurance companies are supposed to have your back… but their number one priority is almost always their own financial well-being.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
Los Angeles, CA -- A proposed overall 3.8% rate hike on drivers insured under California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program has been withdrawn after Consumer Watchdog submitted comments urging the proposal be rejected or deferred.
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.
Los Angeles, CA -- Consumer Watchdog has asked the Insurance Commissioner to block proposed hikes in the price of auto insurance sold to low income motorists in a number of California counties.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Consumer Watchdog’s Challenge Using Prop 103’s Consumer Participation Process Leads To An Overall 3.1% Rate Decrease
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Los Angeles, CA– In a letter sent today, Consumer Watchdog called on Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to use the full authority of his office to preserve Californians’ access to home insurance.
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.
Sacramento, CA – A wildfire insurance bill sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara stalled in the state Assembly today in the face of objections raised by the Department of Finance and Consumer Watchdog that the bill would expose taxpayers to unnecessary financial risks.
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.
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.
Watch the video of California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara addressing insurance industry lawyers in Hollywood on July 25, 2019. The video was posted by Politico to accompany their July 29, 2019 story:
POLITICO: Lara tells insurers he's 'receptive' to their ideas, including vehicle data use.
Los Angeles, CA – Reporting published in the San Diego Union Tribune Saturday reveals that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara intervened on the side of a workers’ compensation insurer on at least four separate occasions after receiving contributions from insurance executives and their wives with connections to the company.
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.
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.
Out-of-State Insurance Executive and Spouses Donate As Insurer Seeks Lara’s Approval of its Pending Acquisition
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Los Angeles, CA– Today the Consumer Federation of America reports that Proposition 103, the insurance reform law passed by California voters on November 8, 1988, has saved drivers $154 billion on their auto insurance.
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.
This oped was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 5, 2018
What if hospitals sold crack, doctors offered cigarettes in their waiting rooms, and firefighters gave out flamethrowers?
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.
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.
SACRAMENTO, CA – Consumer Watchdog urged Assembly member Autumn Burke (D-Los Angeles) to withdraw legislation backed by State Farm Insurance because it “will irreparably harm policyholders who seek to repair their vehicles financially and, potentially, cost many consumers their safety, and even their lives.”
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.
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.
In response to an investigative report, the California Department of Insurance has ordered Nationwide and USAA to not charge motorists in minority neighborhoods more than policyholders with similar risk profiles who live in predominantly white neighborhoods.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.