Progressive Begins Selling Mass. Auto Online; Casco Looks to Enter

May 1, 2008

Progressive Insurance begins selling personal auto insurance online in Massachusetts today.

Meanwhile, Casco Indemnity, which writes auto insurance in the other New England states on behalf of several mutual fire insurers, is looking to re-enter the Bay State auto market it left back in 2004.

When it announced its plans to enter the Bay State earlier this year, Ohio-based Progressive said its rates would be an average 18 percent lower than those paid by Massachusetts drivers in 2007.

At that time, Cathy Wilton-Bransch, Massachusetts product manager for Progressive, said the company wanted to enter Massachusetts quickly under the new managed competition system so it is going online first. She said the company hopes to begin offering the coverage through independent agents in the Bay State by the second quarter of next year.

Massachusetts has a new managed competition system that gives insurers some pricing and underwriting freedom. Competitive rates went into effect April 1. It also has a new plan for assigning high risk drivers to carriers.

Meanwhile, William Swetland, president and chief executive officer of the Saco, Maine-based Casco, said his company’s plans to re-enter Massachusetts are in the early stages but he has contacted state insurance officials to begin the process.

Hingham Mutual Fire Insurance Co. and Danbury Insurance Co. (both part of the Massachusetts-based Hingham Group) and Phenix Mutual Fire Insurance Co., located in New Hampshire, now own Casco. It was originally formed in 1985 by a group of seven mutual fire insurers wanting to give their agents an auto market.

Casco now writes about $16 million in business with about 140 independent agents. Most of the business is in the five New England states other than Massachusetts, with some in South Carolina, which it entered just last year.

In addition to personal auto, Casco offers personal umbrellas and commercial auto policies.

Swetland said it is too early to know how many agents Casco will appoint in Massachusetts. He said the company is hoping to re-enter around July 1, if the state approves.

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