N.J. DOBI Notes Success of Online Auto Insurance Site

March 18, 2004

According to New Jersey’s Department of Banking and Insurance, the state’s innovative Auto Insurance Purchasing Planner has been used by more than 6,500 consumers shopping for auto insurance since the program was unveiled just two weeks ago. It’s become “one of the more popular services on the Department’s Web site.”

“For too long, getting an auto insurance policy in New Jersey has been difficult,” Governor James E. McGreevey stated. “But now, we’re making it easy and convenient by literally putting information at drivers’ fingertips. From a more competitive marketplace, to more consumer protections, our auto insurance reforms are putting the consumer in the driver’s seat.”

The DOBI’s bulletin explained that the Purchasing Planner is a key program in the governor’s efforts to protect consumers, “by providing them with the tools to understand what coverage they need and how that affects the premium they pay.”

Commissioner Holly C. Bakke commented: “I am so pleased people are taking advantage of this innovative shopping tool. The heavy use of the planner demonstrates that if consumers have access to the right information, they will take advantage of the opportunity to make decisions that fit their auto insurance needs.”

The bulletin noted that the Purchasing Planner “is just one component of the Governor’s consumer initiatives.” These include a “Consumer Bill of Rights, an Automobile Insurance Report Card to assist consumers in evaluating auto insurers, Three Scenarios, which requires insurers to provide three distinct premium-and-coverage choices, and a requirement that insurers notify customers within 10 days of filing an application to alter its rates.”

It also pointed out that the reforms had created the Dollar-A-Day program for low-income families who are on federal Medicaid, and that it “phases out the take-all-comers rule, adds a new standard deductible of $750, maintains the current $250,000 medical expense benefit standard coverage under PIP, and makes auto insurance fraud a crime.”

The announcement listed the following as “Other major accomplishments since the reform law was signed in June 2003:
— Mercury Insurance has entered the marketplace, the first new auto insurer in eight years;
— Allstate has added new agents and is actively trying to enroll good drivers;
— State Farm decided to suspend its practice of dropping coverage for 4,000 New Jersey drivers per month;
— USAA and State Farm voluntarily reduced rates;
— Appointment of more than 500 new auto insurance agents; and
— 37,000 previously uninsured drivers now contributing more than $54 million through the Governor’s “Last Chance” program.

“Developing an auto insurance market where consumers benefit from a competitive marketplace is what this Administration is working toward,” Commissioner Bakke continued. “The Auto Insurance Purchasing Planner is helping consumers take advantage of the emerging competitive marketplace.”

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