June 16, 2011

Missouri Department of Insurance releases latest consumer complaint numbers

Before buying, consumers should compare insurers' complaint histories

Jefferson City, Mo. - Consumers shopping for insurance can now take advantage of the latest complaint data released by the Missouri Department of Insurance. The annual complaint index report is posted and searchable at the department's website, insurance.mo.gov, under the "Find an Insurance Company" link. For more than 1,200 insurance companies doing business in Missouri, users can see consumer complaint histories for the past three years.

Each insurance company in the online database is assigned a complaint index number, which explains whether the company has a high, average or low volume of complaints for a company its size. A complaint index of 100 is average. An index of less than 100 means a company receives fewer complaints than average; an index of above 100 means a company receives more complains than average.

Consumers can search online for the complaint index rating of a particular company, or find rankings of companies with the highest or lowest complaint ratings, sorted by line of insurance, such as auto, home, life or health.

"Missouri has a competitive insurance market, so I encourage consumers to shop around to find the company that best fits their needs," said Insurance Director John M. Huff.  "One important piece of that research is checking a company's track record when it comes to dealing with conflicts with customers."

The complaint index numbers are based on the roughly 3,300 formal complaints consumers file against companies with the department every year. The department's Consumer Affairs Division mediates complaints and in 2010 returned $9.6 million to consumers who had been unfairly denied claims or overcharged on premiums.

In addition to searching complaints, Huff said consumers should verify with the department whether a particular agent or company is licensed to do business in Missouri. This information is also available on the department's website.

Consumers can verify licensing, get complaint index ratings, file complaints or ask other general questions about insurance by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or visiting insurance.mo.gov. The hotline hours have been expanded to meet the needs of Joplin-area consumers: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.