(a) The commissioner shall establish a program on or before July 1, 1991, to investigate complaints and respond to inquiries received pursuant to Section 12921.3, to comply with Section 12921.4, and, when warranted, to bring enforcement actions against insurers or production agencies, as those terms are defined in subdivision (a) of Section 1748.5. The program shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(1) A toll-free telephone number published in telephone books throughout the state, dedicated to the handling of complaints and inquiries.
(2) Public service announcements to inform consumers of the toll-free telephone number and how to register a complaint or make an inquiry to the department.
(3) A simple, standardized complaint form designed to assure that complaints will be properly registered and tracked.
(4) Retention of records on complaints for at least three years after the complaint has been closed.
(5) Guidelines to disseminate complaint and enforcement information on individual insurers to the public, that shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(A) License status.
(B) Number and type of complaints closed within the last full calendar year, with analogous statistics from the prior two years for comparison. The proportion of those complaints determined by the department to require that corrective action be taken against the insurer, or leading to insurer compromise, or other remedy for the complainant, as compared to those that are found to be without merit. This information shall be disseminated in a fashion that will facilitate identification of meritless complaints and discourage their consideration by consumers and others interested in the records of insurers.
(C) Number and type of violations found, by reference to the line of insurance and the law violated. For the purposes of this subparagraph, the department shall separately report this information for health insurers.
(D) Number and type of enforcement actions taken.
(E) Ratio of complaints received to total policies in force, or premium dollars paid in a given line, or both. Private passenger automobile insurance ratios shall be calculated as the number of complaints received to total car years earned in the period studied.
(F) Any other information the department deems is appropriate public information regarding the complaint record of the insurer that will assist the public in selecting an insurer. However, nothing in this section shall be construed to permit disclosure of information or documents in the possession of the department to the extent that the information and those documents are protected from disclosure under any other provision of law.
(6) Procedures and average processing times for each step of complaint mediation, investigation, and enforcement. These procedures shall be consistent with those in Article 6.5 (commencing with Section 790) of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 1 for complaints within the purview of that article, consistent with those in Article 7 (commencing with Section 1858) of Chapter 9 of Part 2 of Division 1 for complaints within the purview of that article, and consistent with any other provisions of law requiring certain procedures to be followed by the department in investigating or prosecuting complaints against insurers or production agencies.
(7) A list of criteria to determine which violations should be pursued through enforcement action, and enforcement guidelines that set forth appropriate penalties for violations based on the nature, severity, and frequency of the violations.
(8) Referral of complaints not within the department’s jurisdiction to appropriate public and private agencies.
(9) Complaint handling goals that can be tested against surveys carried out pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 12921.4.
(10) Inclusion in its annual report to the Governor, required by Section 12922, detailed information regarding the program required by this section, that shall include, but not be limited to: a description of the operation of the complaint handling process, listing civil, criminal, and administrative actions taken pursuant to complaints received; the percentage of the department’s personnel years devoted to the handling and resolution of complaints; and suggestions for legislation to improve the complaint handling apparatus and to increase the amount of enforcement action undertaken by the department pursuant to complaints if further enforcement is deemed necessary to ensure proper compliance by insurers or production agencies with the law.
(b) The commissioner shall promulgate a regulation that sets forth the criteria that the department shall apply to determine if a complaint is deemed to be justified prior to the public release of a complaint against a specifically named insurer or production agency.
(c) The commissioner shall provide to the insurer or production agency a description of any complaint against the insurer or production agency that the commissioner has received and has deemed to be justified at least 30 days prior to public release of a report summarizing the information required by this section. This description shall include all of the following:
(1) The name of the complainant.
(2) The date the complaint was filed.
(3) A succinct description of the facts of the complaint.
(4) A statement of the department’s rationale for determining that the complaint was justified that applies the department’s criteria to the facts of the complaint.
(d) An insurer shall provide to the department the name, mailing address, telephone number, and facsimile number of a person whom the insurer designates as the recipient of all notices, correspondence, and other contacts from the department concerning complaints described in this section. The insurer may change the designation at any time by providing written notice to the Consumer Services Division of the department.
(e) The commissioner may establish an Internet-accessible complaints response system to distribute and receive complaint information as described in subdivisions (a) and (c). Insurers shall be required to submit and receive complaint information, including, but not limited to, requested claim files, underwriting files, correspondence, and other supporting documents, using any system established by the commissioner pursuant to this subdivision.
(f) For the purposes of this section, notices, correspondence, and other contacts with the designated person shall be deemed contact with the insurer.
(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 304, Sec. 20. (AB 2884) Effective January 1, 2017.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018