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04/16/2001
     
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Ten Gallons of Premium . . . Please !

Tempe, AZ 04/16/2001 - What would happen if you went to the Full-Serve Island at your local gas station, asked the attendant for 10 Gallons of Premium, you paid for 10 Gallons of Premium, but the attendant pumped only 8 Gallons of Regular? Is that Fraud? To whom would you turn to enforce your consumer rights?

What would happen if you went to your local tire retail store, paid for four New Michelins, but received four Recapped Firestones? Is that Fraud? To whom would you turn to enforce your consumer rights?

What would happen if you bought insurance to protect the Actual Cash Value of your vehicle, but when you submitted a claim, substandard repairs were encouraged and imitation body parts were required by your insurance company . . . resulting in twice the post repair reduction in resale value than would have been experienced if thorough repairs had been done using Factory [OEM] Parts? Is that Fraud? To whom would you turn to enforce your consumer rights?

In the first two examples, most states have a consumer fraud division of their state Attorney General's Office that is empowered to step in and correct the problem. In the first example, there is also a State Department of Weights and Measures empowered to protect consumers from such fraud.

We know of no case where a State Attorney General's Office or Department of Weights and Measures that is administered by members of a Petroleum Retailers Association or a Tire Retailers Association.

But . . . what about the third scenario. Is it Fraud when your insurance company fails to fulfil the promises represented in your contract of insurance? According to the civil case of Avery v State Farm, the answer to this question is a resounding . . . YES ! ~ ~ ~ But . . . will your state's Department of Insurance step in to protect your consumer rights? Sadly, the most common answer to this questions is . . . No !

In those states where the answer is "No", the two most common reasons for this consumer protection breakdown involve . . . [1] No legislative authority to intervene on behalf of consumers, and . . . [2] Most state Departments of Insurance are administered by insurance industry professionals, favored by the insurance industry, and who expect to return to the insurance industry when their governmental tenure has expired.

Neither the Petroleum Industry, nor the Tire Industry, enjoys the legislative lobbying dominance that is held by the Insurance Industry. Where Department's of Insurance demonstrate an apathy toward Consumer issues, such apathy can be rationalized by a lack of legislative authority to protect Consumers.

North Carolina . . .

Mike Causey, I-Can's Legislative Liaison Representative in North Carolina, has brought to our attention Four (4) bills pending in the North Carolina General Assembly that would provide their Department of Insurance the legislative authority to Protect Consumers.

North Carolina Consumers can Email Mike Causey directly at GoCausey@iCan2000.com .

The bills to which we refer are . . [HB13] - Requires insurance companies to notify consumers of their right to have their damaged vehicles repaired by the shop of their choice and authorizes a Legislative Research Commission to examine the insurance industry's over-all approach to handling auto damage claims . . [HB1326] - Waives a policy deductible for vehicle damage claims involving safety related components such as Windshields . . [HB1329] - Places limitations on an insurance company's ability to require the use of Aftermarket Crash Parts in the repair of insured vehicles, and . . [HB1333] - Places a threshold of quality for replacement windshields.

I-Can is offering some verbiage tweaks on these bills through Mr. Causey. I-Can supports these Consumer Protection efforts and encourages consumers to express their support. Consumers can communicate their support of these bills to their North Carolina Legislators by visiting the I-Can web site [www.iCan2000.com] and clicking on the "It's Your Government" link on our Home Page. By entering your Zip Code on the page that next opens up, North Carolina Consumers will be shown how to contact their respective Legislators.

The Insurance Consumer Advocate Network is an InterNet based consumer advocacy effort designed to Increase Consumer Awareness as to Insurance Related Issues, Encourage Consumer Involvement with Insurance Related Efforts and Facilitate Consumer Contact with Pro-Consumer Entities.

The InterNet web site for the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network is www.iCan2000.com.

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