How to Respond to Unfair Requests for Certificates

January 6, 2016

Tired of Unfair Certificates of Insurance Requests?
Over the years we have heard of many instances where general contractors, banks, government entities and other clients are unfairly demanding agents to list coverage information on the certificate of insurance that is not part of the insurance policy.

We now have a statutory solution to curb these unreasonable requests in Ohio. The next time a business or your client demands falsified or deceptive language to be included on a certificate of insurance, you should remind them that under Ohio’s new law, the “Certificates of Insurance Act,” it is expressly illegal for them to demand, and for you or any other agent to provide a certificate of insurance that attempts to amend, extend or alter coverage that is not provided in the insurance policy.

OIA has prepared an implementation toolkit for members to utilize in their interactions with certificate requestors. The kit includes:


What does the law do?
The “Certificates of Insurance Act” ensures that businesses are protected and insurance coverages stated in the certificate can be found in the policy, and if not, there will be consequences. The legislation makes it expressly clear that agents and businesses who violate the law will be subject to penalties, fines and possible actions taken against their insurance licenses, including losing their licenses altogether.

The bill ensures that certificates will be used for their intended purpose and helps prevent their misuse in the marketplace. The only parties adversely affected are those who would demand or issue an improper or misleading certificate of insurance that does not accurately depict the underlying insurance coverage.

Isn’t this activity already illegal?
Yes…but it is qualified in many ways. First, the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) issued a bulletin in 2009, stating that it is an unfair and deceptive act for an agent to misrepresent the terms or benefits of an insurance policy. However, ODI has not pursued these type of actions against agents and it refers to a deceptive act instead of using an express reference to certificates in the code.

Second, the illegal activity only applied to the agent, not the business making an unfair demand. So under the bulletin, a business could pressure an agent to provide falsified information on a certificate and that was not an illegal act. The only illegal act that occurred was if the agent would have acquiesced to the client’s unfair request. The new law makes it expressly illegal for both the business and the agent.

Third, there is no section in the Ohio Revised Code that acknowledges or recognizes certificates of insurance. Ohio, like over 25 other states, now has a body of law that addresses the use and effect of certificates of insurance.

Why will this be effective?
We now have an express statute on certificates of insurance. We expect ODI to increase their oversight and regulation of unfair certificate demands. This new law empowers regulators to more effectively monitor activities surrounding certificates of insurance. Twenty-five states have enacted laws similar to Ohio’s “Certificate of Insurance Act.” We have been told by our colleagues in those states that unfair requests for certificates of insurance decreased significantly after the passage of the law and with a proactive education effort by the agent community to the business community.

Unfair requests are only part of the problem. How does this law address all the other issues with certificates of insurance?
This is an important first step in addressing the many issues with certificates of insurance, however, it is not a solution to all the problems that exist. To enact this legislation, OIA had to work with many stakeholders on developing a bill that all parties were comfortable with. In the process, OIA educated members of the Ohio Legislature on certificates of insurance.

If we see there are additional legislative solutions necessary and available to address the certificates problem, we have already established a foundation of knowledge in the Legislature on this complex and insurance- specific public policy issue. With only two insurance agents in the 132 member Legislature, the initial education process on a topic like this is important when pursuing future reforms.

How did this get passed into law?
OIA worked with joint sponsors Reps. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) and Scott Ryan (R-Newark) in the House and Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) and Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) in the Senate to introduce the legislation.

OIA members identified this issue as their top public policy concern in the 2014 membership survey and your Government Affairs Team took steps necessary to address the issue. OIA advocated for the passage of the legislation through our members’ grassroots activities, including: meetings held in key legislators’ districts and our Advocacy and Political Committees lobbying in support of the issue at our Statehouse Advocacy Day.

Several OIA members provided expert testimony in support of the measure before the House and Senate Insurance Committees. Those members included: Ann Larimer of Marsh & McLennan Agency, Ralph Guarasci, CIC of Insurance Agencies of Ohio, Bill Bishop of Associated Insurance Agencies Inc. and Tom Baker, CIC of Baker & Associates Insurance Agency.

When is the law effective?
March 23. Gov. Kasich signed the law on Dec. 22 and it becomes effective 90 days after the signing.

How will we know if the law is effective?
It will primarily be anecdotal evidence at first. We will gather feedback from members in small and large group settings, analyze the amount of contacts we receive on certificates of insurance issues, the actions taken by ODI and another member survey at the appropriate time.

Questions?
Contact Jeff Smith, OIA director of government affairs and legal counsel at (800) 555-1742 or jeff@ohioinsuranceagents.com.



 

   
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Ohio Insurance Agents Association, Inc.
600 Cross Pointe Road
Gahanna, OH 43230

Toll-free: (800) 555-1742
Phone: (614) 552-8000
Fax: (614) 552-0115

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Breanne George, ext. 1502