Insurance complaint? Vermonters can file onlineBy Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | April 24,2013Consumers with insurance complaints or questions now have another tool at their disposal.
The Department of Financial Regulation has launched a portal on its Insurance Division website where consumers can file complaints or ask an insurance-related question.
Consumers not only can file a complaint but can also upload documents, including photos to support their case. The secure system (www.dfr.vermont.gov) confirms the complaint with an automated e-mail response. It also allows consumers to track the status of their complaint online.
Commissioner Susan Donegan said the online enhancement is part of the department’s charge to educate and aid consumers who have problems. Up until now, insurance complaints or questions were handled by phone, fax or regular mail.
“We should at this point in our technology be able to accept complaints online,” Donegan said. “And that’s what this final step in our ability to communicate with consumers has done.”
The Department of Financial Regulation oversees banking, insurance and securities.
“I would love for the entire department to have a complete online complaint process, so we’re going insurance first,” Donegan said. “In the future, I’m hoping to have a way for the other two divisions to take advantage of something similar.”
She said moving forward with the Insurance Division was less complicated because the insurance industry is regulated solely by the state. She said regulation of the banking and securities industries overlaps with federal agencies and requires an online system that takes both into account.
Donegan also said there are far more insurance inquiries and complaints than banking or securities-related complaints.
In 2012, she said the Insurance Division received approximately 5,000 consumer complaints or inquiries with about half related to health insurance. The remainder were related to automobile, homeowners and property and casualty insurance.
Regardless of how a complaint is received, Donegan said in the case of the Insurance Division the department opens an inquiry and asks the insurance carrier for more information.
She said sometimes a further explanation is all that is needed to clear up the complaint or question with the consumer. In other cases, she said an insurance company may not have adhered to state regulations.
“What we do at that point is encourage the insurance company to correct the problem and to fix whatever the complaint is ... and usually most of our, shall we call them inquiries, are resolved that way,” she said.
However, Donegan said every so often the department will be forced to initiate a formal investigation into an insurance company’s practices.
The Insurance Division’s online tool allows the department’s staff to reply electronically to more than 90 percent of submitted queries, which increases efficiency and response times.
Consumers with insurance-related problems can continue to call the department at 800-964-1784.
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