Consumer Protection Coalition Calls on Lawmakers to Make 2017 the Year for Assignment of Benefits reform
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2017) – The Consumer Protection Coalition today praised the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance for kicking off the discussion about Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse and the need for meaningful reform this legislative session.
During a hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, members of the Consumer Protection Coalition spoke about how AOB is spiraling out of control and financially harming consumers and businesses.
“The data clearly shows that Assignment of Benefits abuse is growing statewide and is driving up costs for policyholders and employers,” said Carolyn Johnson, Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the coalition. “We are very encouraged that Senator Flores and her committee are looking at this issue and its serious impact on Florida families and businesses.’’
Figures from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation show AOB abuse, which was once centered in South Florida, is spreading statewide and resulting in higher premium costs for policyholders. Citizens has made AOB reform its top legislative priority in 2017 based on the fact that last year 45 percent of its claims resulted in litigation, compared with just 12 percent in 2011. And, of those litigated claims, 60 percent came from 13 law firms.
“This isn’t an issue that we can continue to ignore,’’ said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) , a coalition member. “Unfortunately, a few bad players can increase insurance costs for everyone. Fixing this problem needs to be a top priority for lawmakers this legislative session.’’
During the hearing, Citizens gave a sobering look at the impact of AOB abuse, noting that every time a claim is inflated beyond what is customary, policyholders ultimately pay for it. In 2016, its average claim was just over $20,000, about double the average claim amount in 2011.
The Consumer Protection Coalition formed last year to push for AOB reform through common-sense legislation that would have added protections to keep homeowners in control of their policies when seeking emergency repairs for a broken kitchen pipe, roof leak or other kind of damage. By signing an Assignment of Benefits, homeowners can inadvertently give full control of their insurance policy to a third-party who can increase the cost and scope of a claim and sue an insurance carrier that refuses to pay it.
“Hardworking contractors are increasingly concerned about the growing number of scams they’re seeing out in the field from those who are abusing AOB to fill their pockets,’’ said Cam Fentriss of the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association, a coalition member. “Consumers don’t need to sign an AOB to get their repairs done and shouldn’t feel pressured to.’’
The problem also extends to the auto glass industry, which has seen a surge of lawsuits involving insurance claims in which an AOB was used.
“Unfortunately, these practices are not limited to property insurance,’’ said Scot Zajic, vice president of legislative affairs for Safelite Group Inc., which recently joined the coalition. “There is a growing number of vehicle glass shops that are preying on unsuspecting consumers and profiteering on their automobile insurance policies. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed by legislators and regulators immediately.’’
Made up of business leaders, contractors who reject the use of AOBs, consumer advocates, real estate agents, insurance groups and others, the Consumer Protection Coalition advocates that abusive AOB practices and scams jeopardize Florida’s business-friendly environment and impact the availability and affordability of insurance. Citizens, in raising rates an average 8.2 percent statewide for 2017, said additional increases are expected for years to come unless lawmakers take action.
“We are hopeful that this is finally the year the Legislature takes steps to curb abusive AOB practices and stop unscrupulous vendors who are taking advantage of consumers and putting our state’s insurance market at risk,’’ said coalition member Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.
The Consumer Protection Coalition is a broad-based group of business leaders, consumer advocates, real estate agents, construction contractors, insurance agents and insurance trade groups pushing for reforms to end Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse. Learn more about the Coalition at www.FightFraud.Today.
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors Association
Personal Insurance Federation of Florida
Safelite Group Inc.
Florida Property and Casualty Association
Consumer Federation of the Southeast
Associated Builders and Contractors
Florida Justice Reform Institute
Florida Bankers Association
Florida Retail Federation
Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies
Council of Property Claims Professionals
Florida Insurance Council
Florida Association of Insurance Agents
Professional Insurance Agents of Florida
Steve Burgess, Former State Insurance Consumer Advocate
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies