2009 Auto Insurer Complaint Ranking Released

NEW YORK, NY (10/07/2009)(readMedia)-- The New York State Insurance Department upheld 948 consumer complaints against private passenger automobile insurance companies last year, according to the Department's 2009 Annual Ranking of Automobile Insurance Complaints released today.

"New York is a very competitive marketplace, so consumers have a wide range of choices when buying automobile insurance. Consumers should always compare the policies, prices and performance of multiple insurers before deciding on the insurance company that best meets their needs. The Annual Ranking is a great tool consumers can use to evaluate insurer performance in handling complaints," said Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn.

The auto ranking is designed to give consumers a yardstick that measures the number of complaints against an individual company as a percentage of that company's total auto insurance business.

The ranking shows that 7,237 complaints were filed in 2008 against auto insurance companies or groups of companies. Besides the 948 complaints upheld in favor of consumers, 4,316 complaints were withdrawn or not upheld, and 1,973 were ruled as "question of fact" cases. Question of fact disputes are not counted against insurers because the Department cannot legally determine the facts of these cases.

The numbers indicate that the State upheld one consumer complaint for every $9.7 million in premiums paid, based on the total of approximately $10 billion that New Yorkers spent for car insurance.

Other highlights of the report:

• Seven insurers had no upheld complaints. They are Amica Mutual Group, Main Street America Group, QBE Insurance Group Ltd., American Express Groups, Balboa Life & Casualty Group, Electric Insurance Group and Eveready Insurance Company.

• Among the state's largest insurers in terms of market share – those with total premiums of $1 billion or more -- State Farm had the fewest upheld complaints.

• Long Island Insurance Company, Countrywide Insurance Company, White Mountains Group and Tri-State Consumer Insurance Company were the four insurers with the most upheld complaints in relation to their premiums.

The 2009 ranking is compiled using premium data from 2007 and 2008. Premium data from two years are analyzed to compensate for the fact that some complaints closed in any given year are begun in the previous year.

Typical consumer complaints involve delays in the payment of no-fault claims and complaints about insurance companies that do not renew policies.

The ranking is posted at the following location on the Department's website, http://www.ins.state.ny.us/auto/2008/auto2008.pdf. The report is also available by calling the Department toll-free at 1-800-342-3736. In addition, the Insurance Department's Consumer Guide to Automobile Insurance, which offers premium comparisons and other useful information, is also available. The Guide is presented in two versions, one for upstate consumers and the second for downstate consumers.