N.Y, N.J. Agents Cite Progress in Campaign Against GEICO Flyers

July 12, 2006

Since the inception of a controversial move by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Professional Insurance Agents of New York State Inc. has taken the position that it is improper for the DMV to include ads from automobile insurers, such as GEICO, when it mails out drivers’ auto registration renewals.

Now, sparked by a situation in New Jersey, where the state Turnpike Authority instituted a similar program, the Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey Inc. has also begun a counteraction.

“When a government agency sends out official documents with advertisements, it could be perceived as an endorsement of the advertiser’s products—which is wrong,” said J. Carlos “Shawn” Viaña, president of PIANY.

Viana says the agents have made recent progress in educating policyholders and lawmakers about this issue.

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt introduced A.11295 in direct response to a dialogue at a PIANY legislative breakfast in Buffalo, N.Y. During the meeting, PIA members explained to legislators how putting insurance company ads in the DMVregistration renewal mailings creates the perception of an official endorsement. DMV’s renewals also provide a close surrogate for auto insurance “expiration dates,” which form part of agents’ valuable business records.

Hoyt’s measure, A.11295, would ban ads directly related to a state agency’s regulatory authority.

PIANJ also has reported similar progress. Assemblyman Neil Cohen introduced legislation (A-3131) that would prohibit a state agency, including an independent state authority, from including any advertisements in mailings to a member of the public. PIANJ says Cohen introduced the bill in response to iuts members’ concerns about the New Jersey Turnpike Authority inclusion of GEICO advertisements with E-ZPass account statement mailings.

“During dialogue with Cohen, the association was able to voice its concerns that the inclusion of advertisements in such a mailing creates a false impression that the state endorses a particular product or service. PIANJ appreciates that Cohen acknowledged and agreed with our apprehensions,” said Andrew Anderson, CIC, president of PIANJ.

PIANJ also sent a letter to New Jersey Turnpike Authority Chairman Joseph Simunovich asking him to cease a pilot program that included GEICO ads in E-ZPass accounts holders’ statements.

Legislation such as A.11295, in New York, and A-3131, in New Jersey, are not without precedent. Earlier this year, PIA of Ohio successfully argued this point, resulting in Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles dropping car insurance ads—featuring Allstate—from its official state mailings.


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