Coakley settles with motorcycle insurance providers

Nick Rees Jan. 15, 2010, 3:49pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Settlements resolving allegations that three insurance companies overcharged motorcycle insurance consumers by using incorrect values to correct premiums have been announced by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Safety Insurance Company, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Company will return $11.1 million to consumers as part of the settlement, which follows a year-long investigation by Coakley's office. The investigation began after a consumer filed a complaint with the Insurance & Financial Services Division of Coakley's office.

"We are pleased that Liberty, Quincy, and Safety cooperated with our investigation and worked closely with our Office to reach settlements that return the alleged overcharges to affected consumers," Coakley said.

"However, it remains troubling that these overcharges occurred. and these cases certainly underscore the importance of transparency in auto insurance rating. Both consumers and regulators need to have access to information showing how premiums are to be calculated so that consumers can be protected and are not overcharged."

In the auto insurance industry, premiums are calculated by following the rules in the companies' ratings manuals. The settling insurers' rating manuals required the use of current motorcycle book values when calculating collision and comprehensive premiums. The settling insurers, however, are alleged to have used inflated and out-of-date motorcycle values when determining premiums.

One of the insurers calculated premiums for a 1999 Harley Davidson Road King Classic based on a value in each year between 2003 and 2008 of $20,000.

The motorcycle's book value, however, was significantly less than $20,000 in 2003 and, by 2008, the value of the motorcycle had depreciated to less than $12,000, Coakley said. The consumer, though, was still being rated in 2008 as if the motorcycle had a $20,000 book value, Coakley said.

Safety, under terms of the settlement, is expected to return $7.2 million to policyholders. Liberty will return $3.1 million to policyholders and Quincy will return $800,000. Tens of thousands of policies are believed to have been affected. The average refund to consumers is anticipated to be approximately $300, though some consumers will receive thousands of dollars.

Additionally, the three companies will make $510,000 in payments to the state as part of the settlements.

The settlements, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, cover alleged overcharges going back to 2002. The insurers are required to pay six percent interest to consumers on the alleged overcharges.

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