MetLife Says Independent Agents Still Involved in Free Policy Deal

MetLife officials on Tuesday rebuffed claims that they are steering business away from independent agents through a sales promotion that offers a year of free auto insurance to new car buyers in the Pacific Northwest.

The trial incentive, which is available to anyone who buys a new General Motors vehicle by Sept. 6 in Washington and Oregon, has been criticized by associations that represent independent insurance agents for removing them from the policy-buying process.

But that’s not entirely accurate, according to a MetLife Auto & Home spokesman.

“It’s not as if there’s no independent agent involved,” David Hammarstrom said in a telephone interview. “There is an agency of record on this account.”

Hammarstrom identified WWFW Management LLC as the agency of record for the GM/MetLife trial program and said “they do receive an amount of money” under the deal. He would not disclose any further information about the arrangement.

Officials at WWFW Management, a New Jersey-based company that is affiliated with MetLife’s parent company, said early Tuesday they could not comment.

GM introduced the free coverage offer earlier this month, making it available to any Washington and Oregon residents who buy a new GM truck, car or crossover. Policies provided by MetLife include both liability and physical damage coverage and exceed requirements in both states.

state and GM coverage comparison Officials at both companies say the offer makes it easier for consumers by providing coverage along with new vehicles, removing the hassle of checking car insurance quotes online or in person.

But critics say the offer not only takes business away from independent agents, but also provides consumers with coverage that may not be right for them and could conflict with their existing policies.

MetLife officials have said that they are not reviewing standard underwriting criteria—such as driving records, age and gender—in issuing policies under the deal.

“At the GM dealerships, auto sales people are just saying ‘Here’s the policy, sign up,’” the Professional Insurance Agents Western Alliance said in a news release.

Car buyers who have existing umbrella policies covering multiple vehicles and their homes could find themselves out of compliance as a result of accepting the free MetLife coverage, according to the alliance. That could mean paying out of pocket should a claim arise or missing out on various discounts.

And because no experienced agent will be available at the dealership, consumers may not see any policy problems coming, critics contend.

Clark Sitzes, executive vice president of the alliance, said his group continues to work with regulators in Washington and Oregon, and with MetLife officials, in hopes of a resolution.

Hammarstrom said MetLife is seeking greater brand recognition through the offer and could take part in an expanded program if it is successful in Washington and Oregon. GM has said it may expand the promotion regionally, if the trial offer generates enough consumer appeal.

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

No comments yet.

Comment on this article