Drivers Deserve Refunds From Auto Insurers, Study Says

Woman in Car with Little Boy

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With much of the nation staying home during the pandemic, there were fewer car accidents but higher earnings for auto insurers this year, a new study released Tuesday said. As a result, the Center for Economic Justice (CEJ) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) are demanding auto insurers issue refunds to customers who paid higher accident premiums than they actually owe.

Between March and October, there were 181,000 fewer car accidents compared to the same time in 2019 in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Texas, the four states analyzed in the study. Insurance companies, including Progressive, Allstate, and GEICO, all reported huge profit increases during this time compared to last year too, the study said.

Despite the drop in accidents and increased revenue, few car insurers have issued refunds to drivers since the spring, when many companies provided two or three months’ worth of credits, refunds, or dividends, the study said. 

“The math is very simple: As a result of the pandemic there have been millions of fewer accidents and billions in extra profits for insurance companies that have not given back enough of the excess premium they continued to collect even as the pandemic lasted for months and months,” Doug Heller, an insurance expert for the CFA, said in a statement. 

Progressive, for example, reported $1.5 billion in net income between April and September, an 82% increase over its earnings during that same time in 2019. GEICO and Allstate also saw large increases in their earnings this year compared to the same time last year, according to the study.

The CEJ and CFA provided a breakdown of hypothetical refunds due to individuals on their monthly premiums, based on how much an insurance company has lost in overall accident claims year-over-year.

  If claims drop by 20% If claims drop by 33% If claims drop by 50%
Refund due (of monthly premium) 15.8% 26% 39.4%

The study argues that these insurance companies benefit from raking in premiums without having to pay out proportionate crash claims.

Accidents will continue to decline due to recent pandemic restrictions across the country, including bans on indoor dining and reduced capacity inside businesses, the study said, and that’s all the more reason for insurers to offer drivers a refund.

“With the renewal of stay-at-home orders and continued high unemployment and extensive remote work and schooling, getting more rate relief into the pockets of auto insurance policyholders is absolutely necessary,” Heller said.

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