LOS ANGELES, CA — California-based Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, said Mercury Insurance has threatened to sue the owners of a billboard the group used to display a statement that reads, "Consumer Watchdog says: You can’t trust Mercury Insurance."
The billboard posting, written in bold black letters over a yellow background, prompts onlookers to visit the Consumer Watchdog Web site to find out why. The consumer group said CBS Outdoors, owners of the space, contacted them to say the insurer has threatened a lawsuit unless the billboard display was removed.
Attempts to reach Mercury Insurance for comment were not immediately successful.
The billboard was taken down, CBS Outdoors told Consumer Watchdog, who said in a statement that the post was made on the billboard "to expose serious problems with Mercury Insurance." The billboard is located just a half mile away from Mercury’s corporate headquarters.
Last year, Mercury Insurance agreed to a settlement with the California Department of Insurance to pay $300,000 in penalties and fees for alleged claims-handling violations. The insurance department conducted an investigation of complaints against the insurer and found about 260 violations that occurred from January 2004 to December 2005 from 121 files reviewed. Violations included unreasonable delays in affirming or denying coverage and issuing claim payments, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said (BestWire, June 26, 2008).
Mercury Insurance Co., a member of Mercury General Group, currently has a Best’s Financial Strength Rating of A+ (Superior).
The top five writers of private passenger auto insurance in California in 2008, based on A.M. Best Co. state/line data, were: State Farm Group, with a 12.9% market share; Farmers Insurance Group, 11.0%; Mercury General Group, 9.4%; Auto Club Enterprises Insurance Group, 9.0%; and Allstate Insurance Group, 8.4%.
The top five writers of homeowners multiperil in California in 2008, according to A.M. Best Co. state/line product information based on direct premiums written, were: State Farm Group, with a 20.3% market share; Farmers Insurance Group, with 17.3%; Allstate Insurance Group, with 11.4%; California State Auto Group, with 6.6%; and Liberty Mutual Insurance Cos., with 5.0%.
Contact the author Chad Hemenway, associate editor, at: [email protected]