CONSUMER CATCH-UP: Uber, Lyft to create database for banned drivers, CA orders auto insurance companies to reimburse overcharged customers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Insurance Commissioner orders insurance companies to return premiums of overcharged customers

The state Insurance Commissioner has ordered auto insurance companies to report on how they will pass pandemic savings onto their customers.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more California drivers stayed off the roads. In April 2020, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered insurance companies to return a percentage of customer premiums, saving drivers a collective $1.75 billion in 2020.

After a review of the data submitted by insurance companies -- the only such review in the country so far -- Commissioner Lara's office found that insurance companies continued to overcharge their customers, despite the lower rate of accidents and insurance payouts.

Now, Commissioner Lara has ordered insurance companies to submit their plans for returning additional premium costs to policyholders by April 30. 2021.

"Insurance Commissioner Lara's order to continue refunds is welcome news to millions of California consumers and businesses continuing to experience a decline in losses and accidents as a result of this global pandemic," said Richard Holober, president of the Consumer Federation of California. "California continues to set the standard for holding insurance companies accountable for returning additional premiums to their policyholders to promote a stronger recovery."

Marin County releases report on pandemic price gouging

A new consumer protection report out of Marin County substantiates claims of some pandemic-related price gouging, but revealed that most complaints were unfounded.

The Marin County Department of Agriculture / Weights and Measures (AWMs) partnered with the District Attorney's office to issue their fifth annual Marin County Consumer Protection report. The report found a sharp increase in the number of complaints about potential pricing fraud, substantiated several of the consumer-submitted complaints, and found more violations at the stores in question. Still, only three out of the 11 price gouging complaints were found to have merit.

In early April 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order that prohibited raising the prices of certain essential items more than 10% over their pre-pandemic cost.

Consumers stepped up their complaints to the department, reporting 40% more suspected violations over the year before. The department found that the percentage of items priced over their allowed limit was 4.1%, a 71% increase.

"It felt good for us to ensure people were not getting gouged, and if they were, to immediately stop the consumer harm," said Acting AWMs Agricultural Commissioner Stefan Parnay. "In the early days of the pandemic and the sheltering orders, we responded to reports of abrupt price increases all over the county that consumers had noticed. Most were unsubstantiated, but it was a new frontier for us to inspect stores' pricing for compliance with a state-wide emergency order from the governor."

Uber, Lyft team up to create database of expelled dangerous drivers

Uber and Lyft are teaming up to create a database of drivers booted from their platforms for misconduct.

After complaints about sexual harassment, assault, and other crimes raised questions about passenger safety on rideshare services, Uber and Lyft partnered with HireRight, a specialist in background checks. On Thursday, they announced a database of expelled drivers, with plans to add the names of banned workers from other services, such as grocery or restaurant take-out delivery.

"Lyft and Uber are competitors in a whole lot of ways, but on this issue of safety, we completely agree that folks should be safe no matter what platform they choose," said Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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