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A pandemic-related refund might be coming your way soon

March 23rd, 2021 at 10:19 PM
Coronavirus update

Here’s a coronavirus pandemic-related update that reflects one of the many unanticipated but understandable-in-hindsight consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak that led to a widespread shift toward work-from-home arrangements for millions of people:

Some car insurers may return even more money to customers soon, as the premiums those customers are paying arguably don’t make as much sense when the customer is rarely driving. Of course, there are plenty of caveats to note there, one of which is that not everyone has behaved the same way during the pandemic — like how some people have returned to a more normalized existence, like driving to eat at restaurants again, much quicker than other people have. Nevertheless, the pandemic already led auto insurers to give back approximately 15% of drivers’ premiums for some months last year — a collective refund of about $14 billion. But is that enough?

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To put it another way, does it seem fair to you to still be paying your normal auto insurance monthly premium based on a risk profile that arguably you no longer fit? Some of us, it should go without saying, have barely used our cars over the last 12 months.

California’s Insurance Commissioner seems to feel that continued refunds are the way to go. Auto insurance is regulated by state officials, so it’s important to point out that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. But the order by California’s top insurance regulator giving insurers until April 30 to come up with a plan for more refunds could certainly spark a trend.

The order from commissioner Ricardo Lara reflects the fact that the number and dollar amount of accident claims plummeted in California during the coronavirus pandemic and that refunds customers received already weren’t as high as they should have been. “After a systematic review of data submitted by insurance companies — the only such review in the country — (Lara) has found that insurance companies continued to overcharge consumers despite drastically reduced risk of accidents and loss due to the ongoing pandemic,” a news release from the commissioner’s office announces.

“Today, Commissioner Lara directed auto insurance companies to report by April 30 how they will return additional (premiums) back to California policyholders that (were) over-collected in 2020. He is also directing commercial insurance companies to provide data about commercial policies held by California businesses, which could lead to additional savings for small businesses that are struggling to survive due to the pandemic.”

Because of California’s size and influence, this move might spark a similar re-examination of refunds that other state insurance regulators feel are necessary. Something that could certainly help relieve a bit of financial burden on cash-strapped consumers during the pandemic, when every little bit of relief helps.

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.




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