EDITORIAL: Public wins records fight with Allstate

Apr 8, 2008

The News-Press--April 8, 2008

Good news for consumers in the Florida insurance wars: An appeals court says state regulators can indeed freeze Allstate out of writing new policies in Florida as punishment for the company’s refusal to cooperate with a rate investigation.

The court decision Friday was quickly followed by the posting by Allstate on its Web site of thousands of pages of the records it had been withholding for more than a decade. The company said it wanted to stop inaccurate reporting.

People can disagree about what rates and company practices are acceptable, but transparency – openness with the evidence – is a must.

Otherwise, regulators are swinging blind. They need unfettered access to insurance company records if they are to protect consumers.

A review of thousands of Allstate documents plus other evidence by The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (prior to Friday’s release of documents) revealed a national get-tough strategy by Allstate.

The company used a computer program designed to reduce payouts over what the company once paid, then pressured policyholders to accept quick settlements or face years of litigation.

Nice to know.

Florida’s insurance woes are large and complex. This victory won’t solve them, but it could put some teeth in the state’s crucial consumer protection role.