Error Resulted in Inaccurate Citizens Rate-Hike Reports

January 14, 2005

Although information filed by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. with Florida regulators to request rate increases was correct, information provided to the public and media was incorrect, according to Justin Glover, Citizens spokesman.

Glover told the Fort Myers News-Press that insurance rate increases for customers in Lee County won’t be as high as the state-run insurance company said earlier. He said that incorrect information was distributed due to a “cut-and-paste error.”

The corrected figures make the bad news better for Lee County’s customers. The state’s insurer of last resort said that wind-only insurance in Lee County will increase 10.1 percent, a far cry from the 45 to 60 percent figure cited in their previous report. Some coastal and barrier island customers will see no increase, or a 2.5 percent hike.

The increase in Collier County is lower than reported, too. The rate increase of 14.6 percent that will start in April is somewhat lower than the previously announced 19.8 percent rate.

The error was only made on wind-only policy information, Glover said. The statewide average increase for wind-only policies on dwellings is 12.2 percent, 9 percent for condo policies and 3 percent for mobile homes. And the statewide average increase on Citizens’ homeowner policies is 23.4 percent.

With nearly 874,000 policyholders, Citizens is one of the largest insurers in the state.

The company provides insurance to customers who can’t get insurance from private carriers. By law it’s required to charge rates that are higher than private carriers which prompted the current rate increase.

That has irked some consumer advocates who contend that if Citizens doesn’t need the money it shouldn’t be raising rates.

“We don’t want Citizens to compete, but insurers don’t want these customers,” Bill Newton, executive director of Florida Consumer Action Network, said in a statement released Thursday. “We call on the Office of Insurance Regulation to turn down this rate increase because it is not necessary, and we call on our state Legislature to change the statute requiring Citizen’s to have the highest rates.”

Insurers contend, however, that they would offer insurance to some Citizen customers but can’t compete with the company’s too-low rates.

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