Fla. Dept. of Consumer Services, Poe Discuss How to Reduce Consumer Complaints

April 21, 2006

Florida’s Consumer Services representatives held a meeting on Friday morning with officials of the Tampa, Fla.-based Poe Insurance Group to discuss how to reduce the number of consumer complaints about the firm and its subsidiaries, Atlantic Preferred Insurance Company, Southern Family Insurance Company and Florida Preferred Insurance Company.

During a recent two-week period, DFS received 169 consumer complaints about Poe. Poe was once the third-largest homeowner insurer in the state.

This meeting with Poe was already scheduled with the Division of Consumer Services, Bob Lotane, DFS press secretary told Insurance Journal. He said that whenever there are complaints about a provider, state insurance representatives schedule regular meetings to keep track of how they are being handled.

“Whenever there are an unusual number of consumer complaints, that would concern us,” Lotane said. “We always set up regular meetings and develop an action plan to take care of the problem.

“There were 169 complaints during a recent two-week period and that is certainly something that raises an eyebrow with us,” Lotane explained. “That will put a little more added import to this meeting and we are going to want to find out what is going on.”

He said the meetings are an ongoing process that we have been going through with Poe to make sure people are being treated correctly.

Tami Torres, DFS director of communications, said that the complaints are worrisome.

Poe and its other companies cover more than 350,000 policies in Florida.

Atlantic Insurance recently announced that as of July 13 it will begin to cancel coverage for 140,000 Florida homeowners, right in the middle of the 2006 hurricane season. At the time of the announcement it indicated the cancellations were necessary to curb its risks after dramatic losses from 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.

The announcement followed a similar one by Poe a few weeks before, during which the company said Southern Family Insurance would stop issuing or renewing policies in June.

Poe had over $2 billion of gross losses and more than 125,000 claims from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. In its announcement, it said it was announcing “some necessary underwriting action regarding its homeowner and commercial lines business.

Poe’s homeowners companies, Florida Preferred and Atlantic Preferred, are estimated to have some 300,000 policies, while Southern Family, which writes condominium associations, is believed to have over 1,500 policies. At the end of 2005, Poe carried about 325,000 homeowner and condominium policies. After the cancellations, it will have 145,000 policies in the state.

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