California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Monday ordered insurers to refund some premiums to help provide financial relief to businesses and consumer during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lara’s bulletin impacts insurance lines with a decreased risk of loss due to the crisis, including private passenger and commercial automobile, workers’ compensation, commercial multi-peril and liability, and medical malpractice, according to a news release from the commissioner’s office.
The order would cover premiums for at least March and April, and could extend through May if statewide stay-at-home restrictions remain in place.
“With Californians driving fewer miles and many businesses closed due to the COVID-19 emergency, consumers need relief from premiums that no longer reflect their present-day risk of accident or loss,” Lara said in the release. “Today’s mandatory action will put money back in people’s pockets when they need it most.”
Under the bulletin, insurance companies would have to provide a premium credit, reduction, refund or other adjustments as soon as possible, but no later than August.
Several auto insurance companies like State Farm, Allstate and Geico have already voluntarily announced they will return, altogether, billions of dollars in premiums to customers.
As Lara noted, a recent study from UC Davis found that there have been fewer accidents and traffic-related injuries and fatalities throughout the state because of less cars on the roads — the result of nonessential businesses being closed and people adhering to stay-at-home orders.
The action undertaken by the commissioner’s office will add insurance companies that haven’t yet extended premium breaks and ensure oversight.
“Today’s Bulletin extends these private personal auto policy reductions to more companies and adds commercial lines while monitoring insurance companies’ compliance with California’s consumer protection laws so that refunds are not discriminatory or inadequate,” the release explained.
Insurance companies won’t have to get prior approval from the state’s Department of Insurance regarding premium refunds so long as they the methods outlined in the bulletin, according to Lara.
The latest measure is on top of other actions the commissioner’s office has taken recently to help consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak, including requesting a grace period of at least 60 days to pay their premiums and extend claim deadlines.
More information can be found in the commissioner’s bulletin here.