Massachusetts Settles With Commerce over Insurance Appeals Errors

February 9, 2010

Massachusetts has reached a settlement with the Bay State’s largest auto insurer, Commerce Insurance Co., over its failure to report at-fault auto accident determinations made by the state’s board of appeals, according to the attorney general’s office.

The board of appeals is an independent arbiter that reviews the fairness of at-fault accident determination reached by insurers when one of their customers is involved in an accident. Insurers are required to report board of appeals decisions to a private data-collection company — a requirement that Commerce failed to meet. That information is needed for customers’ rates to be accurately determined.

Attorney General Martha Coakley said that Commerce is one of several auto insurers in the state that have failed to abide by a 2009 statute which requires insurance companies to report and use board of appeal determinations in setting consumers’ premiums.

“Our office will continue to monitor possible violations of this statute, both to protect consumers, but also to preserve a level playing field for insurance companies,” Coakley said.

The settlement with Commerce requires the company to correct the at-fault determinations it reported to the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), a privately operated database, and to make payments to former customers who were overcharged by other insurance companies based on incorrect, at-fault accident determinations that Commerce should have corrected.

Because Commerce uses the Merit Rating Board’s point system rather than CLUE data to calculate premiums for most Massachusetts drivers, the premiums that Commerce charged to its own policyholders were not affected by the erroneous CLUE reports.

Commerce has agreed to reform its at-fault reporting practices and to update CLUE whenever one of its at-fault findings is overturned by the board of appeal. Commerce will also notify insurance companies that currently insure the affected operators to ensure that those insurance companies re-rate customers.

Commerce will also make a payment of $40,000 to the state.

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