Saturday, November 5, 2011

E&O Hell No!

On 10/29, I received my first bill for my auto insurance renewal.  Knowing that with insurance, I get thirty days to pay the bill, I put it aside to pay it later.  Today, in the mail, I received an unsettling letter from my auto and homeowners insurance agent informing me that my auto insurance was cancelled for non-payment of premium effective 11/2.  I immediately picked up the phone and dialed Mercury Insurance.

When I got to speak with a person, I let them know that I was never notified with enough time to pay the bill.  The "customer service" person told me that the bill had been sent in September.  I shot back that I never received it and mentioned that regardless, I wanted to pay the bill and have my insurance reinstated without a lapse.  She told me that she could reinstate, but it would be effective 11/5, and there would be a lapse in coverage.  She said to me in a somewhat condescending way, "In insurance, we can't reinstate without a lapse."  Since I'm keenly aware of the inner workings of insurance companies, I called her out on this lie, and I asked to speak to a manager since I'd never received the original bill.

The "manager" got on the phone (I use the quotes because I suspect this was not a manager at all based on her constant references of having to discuss with her supervisor), and I told her my side of the story.  She again reiterated that a bill was sent out, so they had done their part, and there was nothing she could do.  I replied by asking where the bill had been sent.  Apparently, it was mailed to my old address.  She saw that there were some notes in her file too stating that the mail had been returned as undeliverable.  Further, when it was returned, the company reached out to my agent to see what my real address is.  At that point (in mid October, mind you), my agent sent in a change request to amend my address.

Sidenote: This error by my agent is what caused all of this hassle.  Why they didn't make the change when I bought a house and thus a new homeowners policy through them in June (and explicitly reminded them to make the change) is beyond my level of comprehension.

Anyway, since there was now proof in Mercury's system about what happened, the "customer service manager" told me that the situation was different now, and she would be able to backdate the reinstatement.  However, there was a caveat.  Apparently, the proof was not quite enough, and she needed a note from the agent stating that the address should have been changed a while ago.  I thought that was reasonable, and I said, "Okay.  Let me pay the renewal now because I need coverage so I can run my errands, and then we can backdate when you hear from the agent on Monday."  She countered by saying that's not how it works and that if I paid now, there would be a lapse in coverage; the only I could reinstate without a lapse is if I went without coverage for the weekend.

Completely miffed and increasingly frustrated with this absurd process, I said, "You mean to tell me that I have to choose between having a lapse in coverage or being uninsured for two more days?"  She said, "That is correct."  In one of the more difficult feats of my life, I resisted that urge to call her a eunuch like I would normally do in this sort of situation.  Instead, I said, "Pardon me for saying so, but that is the most backwards and foolish thing I have ever heard, and it creates incredibly perverse incentives."  Then, I asked whether it was even legal to cancel me only two days after I received my first notification of the bill.  She said, "It has to be legal because that is our process."

To that, I held my tongue because what I really wanted to say was, "Charles Manson had a process too..."  Anyway, I wound up paying the bill and sending my agent a note to call me ASAP.  Starting Monday, I'm going to make sure they correct the lapse, and I will begin my search for a new agent.

For now, to quote Larry the Cable Guy, "I'm madder than Janet Reno's blind date."


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