Massachusetts Agents Want Regulator to Rein in Progressive

December 23, 2008

A trade group for Massachusetts insurance agents has asked the state’s top regulator to force Progressive Insurance to take down its Web site, which agents say routinely gives inaccurate quotes — particularly when comparing Progressive’s prices to its competitors.

The complaint comes in a letter to Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes from the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Commissioners. The letter follows an admission by Progressive that its Web site was mistakenly doubling the rates of several competitors — Commerce Insurance and Liberty Mutual.

It’s the second time in the seven months Progressive has been selling personal auto insurance online that the company has become a target of agents’ ire. In August, the company admitted that its Web site was mistake-prone in some circumstances, and vowed to correct any problems.

“It is safe to say that an independent insurance agent found to be providing inaccurate quotes, particularly for competing companies, would face a regulatory hearing and fine by the Division of Insurance,” wrote Frank Mancini, president of the Massachusetts Associaton of Insurance Agents. “We are not aware of any action taken by the DOI for the inaccurate quotes provided to Massachusetts consumers earlier this year by Progressive.”

Mancini is requesting that Progressive be forced to take down its Web site until the accuracy of its quoting system can be verified. Mancini has also said the company should be fined for every inaccurate quote

It’s not the only problem the agents’ group has with Progressive. Agents say Progressive is selling six-months-only policies, which are supposedly against regulations in the Bay State, as well as altering deductibles and PIP coverage without informing purchasers of the ramifications of the changes.

In a statement, Progressive spokeswoman Cristy Cote said the mistakes were caused by human error in the design of the site. Cote also said that Progressive has sent apologies to the 21,000 consumers who saw incorrect quotes.

“To help remedy this situation, we notified both companies as well as the Massachusetts Division of Insurance and the Attorney General’s office, and we removed the comparison rating service from our Web site,” she said. “We will not re-install this service until we’re completely confident that it is delivering fair and accurate pricing information to Massachusetts consumers.”

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