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An extra stimulus check payment is coming from an unexpected place

Published Oct 19th, 2021 3:01PM EDT
Car insurance
Image: Newport Coast Media/Adobe

Government-issued stimulus checks aren’t the only source of new money for taxpayers right now, at this point during the coronavirus pandemic. Car insurance providers around the US, for example, have also been offering rebates to customers. The reason? Widespread lockdowns and the shift to work-from-home meant that, naturally, people were no longer on the road as much anymore. So it didn’t seem fair to continue charging people the same amount of money according to their pre-COVID risk profile. At least, a temporary adjustment of some kind seemed to be in order.

That’s why, in the early months of the pandemic, the insurer Allstate decided to offer partial refunds to customers. Specifically, for their April and May 2020 monthly premiums. What that amounted to was a return of more than $600 million in premiums to customers — and more is coming elsewhere.

Car insurance rebate checks

Earlier this year, California’s Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara leaned on auto insurers to cough up even bigger refunds to customers. Now, Lara’s office is saying that some insurers still haven’t given back enough.

Lara earlier this month ordered three auto insurance companies to refund to California drivers more of the excess premiums they’ve paid since the start of the pandemic. The order targets three companies that comprise 20% of all California drivers. Those are Allstate Northbrook Indemnity Company, Mercury Insurance Company, and CSAA Insurance Exchange.

An analysis from the California Department of Insurance found that from March to September 2020, insurance company groups returned on average 9 percent of premiums. However, the Department’s analysis found that almost double that amount (17 percent) should have been returned to customers.

‘Out of patience’

“Last year as the pandemic hit, millions of Californians stayed home to save lives,” Lara said in a news release. “We drove less, lowering risks for other drivers on the road. And because of that, I ordered insurance companies to return money to drivers.

“New data shows these three insurance companies have the largest gap between what they did and what they should have done to provide further premium relief for their policyholders. On behalf of consumers, I am out of patience. These insurance companies have 30 days to tell us once and for all how they are going to make it right before we take further action.”

The 30 days noted in that statement started on October 5. Lara’s office has said that his actions already have resulted in more than $2.4 billion in premium relief to drivers. That’s the most refunded back to drivers in the US. And as the pandemic continued, Commissioner Lara extended his refund order through June 2020 and beyond “as conditions warrant.”

Continued Lara: “We will use every means we have available to hold insurance companies accountable for their actions during the pandemic.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.