Consumer group accuses California insurance companies of 'price fixing,' calls for investigation

Thursday, September 7, 2023
Consumer group accuses insurance companies of 'price fixing'
In a letter sent to California's Attorney General, the group calls for an investigation into insurance companies and professional associations.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- In a letter sent to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Consumer Watchdog is calling for an investigation into California insurance companies and professional associations.

The letter begins, "Insurance companies doing business in California are orchestrating shortages to pressure state officials to boost insurance premiums and authorize a massive bailout..."

"We think we have enough evidence that the attorney general needs to investigate," Consumer Watchdog's President Jamie Court said.

This comes as the insurance industry is pushing for changes in state law, including:

  • Rate increases without divulging data.
  • Shifting high-risk insurance costs from companies to policyholders.
  • Charging consumers for what is now considered normal business expenses.
  • MORE: How can insurance in California be reformed? Industry experts and consumer advocates weigh in

    California insurance companies are underwriting fewer policies and even leaving the state. But why are these companies pulling back?

    Consumer Watchdog says it has a whistleblower willing to speak with the attorney general about industry meetings he attended. "They meet regularly in Sacramento. They discuss their pullouts, their request for rate hikes, all this very confidential market information, and they discuss it under the cover of talking about public policy. But, in fact, what they're doing is coordinating a strategy. To get bigger price increases by timing their pullouts. Strategically that type of coordination, in order to get a price increase, can constitute price fixing," Court said.

    7 On Your Side reached out to insurance companies and industry associations as well as the governor's office and Attorney General Bonta's office. We heard back from the Personal Insurance Federation of California which said, "The assertion is false."

    MORE: Secret recording of insurance lobbyist reveals plan to 'jam' bill through before end of session

    A consumer advocate overheard an insurance industry lobbyist discussing strategy on a flight from Los Angeles to Sacramento and secretly recorded it.

    Consumer Watchdog says Governor Gavin Newsom should consider stepping in and stopping this process.

    "If he wants to solve this problem," Court says, "have him create a special session of the legislature and we'll all have hearings, and we'll all talk about it, and the best ideas will win... hopefully. But these are not good ideas. That's why you haven't seen them yet."

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

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