Monday, November 19, 2018

Car Insurance Rates by State


All 50 States Ranked by Average Car Insurance Cost

Insure.com recently released its 2018 study of the average car insurance premiums.

Here is the link...

https://www.insure.com/car-insurance/car-insurance-rates.html

The national average is $1,365.

Most expensive is Michigan at $2,239.

Least expensive is Vermont at $932.

My home state of North Carolina comes in at 42nd at $1,104. Oh the joys of the North Carolina Reinsurance Facility, our one of a kind rate suppressor.

Where does your state come in?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

New NetVu Partnership Logo


NetVu Silver Partnership


I love the new NetVu Logo...



We are exceeding proud to be a NetVu Silver Partner!



Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Insurance Premiums, Credit Card Payments and Refunds


How to Refund a Card Payment


Insurance always has to be different. If you are in the business, you know what I mean.

How do you handle a premium refund if the premium was paid to your agency with a credit card?

What the Card Rules Say


Under the Rules, any payment accepted as a card payment must be refunded through a credit to the cardholders credit card account.

Why?

To protect you from refunding the money twice!

How Does A Double Refund Happen


Since the cardholder can always dispute and reverse the card payment they made to pay the premium originally, the cardholder can, in effect, get a refund without ever asking you about a refund.

The cardholder disputes the charges and the card company automatically credits the amount of the payment back to the cardholder and takes the payment amount out of your bank account. (Yes, you agreed to this when you signed your Merchant Agreement.)

NOTE:Disputes are rare for insurance premium payments.

If you make a refund that is not through a credit back to the cardholders card account, the credit card company has no record of any of this refund. Since they do not know you have done this, their software will allow your customer to dispute the charge and automatically provide a refund credit.

How Can You Prevent This


 If you have refunded this payment through the card network, the card company will see that reversal and will not allow a dispute of the charge since the cardholder has clearly already received a refund.

Simply Easier Payment's Refund Feature


Your Simply Easier Payments account lets you void a full payment or do a partial refund.

Your do this from the Report function. Check out our help section or call and ask us how if you need help in learning how.







Tuesday, October 30, 2018

AppliedNet and NetVu



Sliver Partners


I am extremely pleased to announce Simply Easier Payments is now a Silver Partner fro both NetVu and AppliedNet.

We are committed to the ongoing success of the independent agency channel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Signed Forms and Payments

Requiring a Signed Form With a Payment

There are times as an insurance agent when you need your customer to sign a form in addition to making a payment.

The ACORD 37 Statement of No Losses comes to mind immediately.

Exclusive Feature


We have just added a feature to our invoicing system that allows you to add a form with a certified electronic signature on the form to your invoice.

When your customer clicks the link for the invoice the required, pre-filled form opens with the e-signature field prominently displayed telling your customer they need to sign the document before they can make the payment.

If they do not sign the document the payment screen is not accessible.

Once they do sign the document, the payment screen automatically appears.

Two Tasks with One Invoice


This new feature saves you time because you only need to send one email.

It saves your insured time because they only need to respond to one email.

It saves you both the issue of only getting one or the other task done.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Convenience Fees and Surcharges


How do Surcharge Rules Differ from Convenience Fees


Visa allows most Merchants two ways to add charges to Visa card payment transactions to let the Merchant pass the cost of the card transaction on to the person making the payment.
  1. Convenience Fees
  2. Surcharges

I wrote about "convenience fees" in my last post...

Rules for Surcharges


Surcharges differ from convenience fees on several major points.

  • Only applied to credit card payments
  • Cannot be applied to debit card payments
  • Can be a flat fee or percentage
  • Cannot be an additional revenue generator for the merchant
  • Merchant must register with Visa stating they are charging surcharge in advance


Limits on Surcharge Amount


The amount of the surcharge is limited by the actual cost of the transaction...

"the US Credit Card Surcharge amount is not greater than the applicable Merchant Discount Rate for Visa Credit Card Transactions at the Merchant"


The surcharge can cannot be charged on any debit card transactions...

"surcharges are not permitted on debit Transactions regardless whether a Cardholder selects the "credit" or "debit" button"

It is up to the merchant to determine if the actual card being used is a debit or credit card. This is typically done by referencing BIN tables with the processing software.

The Visa Rules on surcharging can be found beginning on page 378, Rule 5.6. at this link...

https://usa.visa.com/dam/VCOM/download/about-visa/visa-rules-public.pdf




Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Visa Rules on Convenience Fees

Can An Insurance Agency Charge a % Fee


In a seven or eight states there are no insurance specific laws or general business laws which prohibit an insurance agency from charging a convenience fee to their customers who pay by credit card or debit card.

In these states, insurance agents, like any other business, can charge convenience fees or surcharges. These two things - "convenience fees" and "surcharges" - are defined as different things by Visa. Today I will cover convenience fees. In my next post I will cover surcharges.

What an Agency Was Doing


Recently an agent mentioned they were charging a 3% convenience fee on card payments. They were not charging the fee on all lines of business.

2 Violations of Visa Rules



This situation creates the following violations of Visa Rules:

1 - Visa requires a flat dollar fee to be charged for all convenience fees regardless of the payment size

2 - Visa requires that all card payments be charged a fee or that no card payments be charged a fee.

Here are the Rules:

https://usa.visa.com/dam/VCOM/download/about-visa/visa-rules-public.pdf

Page 385 of the above document, rule 5.6.2.1

Refer to Table 5-7.

Visa prohibits percentage. Only flat dollar amount can be charged and that amount has to be the same for all payments - Whether a $10 premium payment or a $10,000 premium payment.

"A flat or fixed amount, regardless of the value of the payment due In the AP Region, an ad valorem amount is allowed as required by applicable laws or regulations."

Visa requires all payments made through the payment channel - electronic payments in this instance - be charged the same fee.

"Applicable to all forms of payment accepted in the payment channel"



I hope this is helpful in your understanding of the way you can charge fees in compliance with your Merchant contract.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Local Gas Stations and Electric Cars

Local Electric Charging Stations


My wife and I recently bought a Chevrolet Bolt. Our first electric car.

We bought the Bolt because it has great range - 250 miles on a full charge - and because it is priced in the range of most cars. After the Federal tax credit it cost us less than $30,000.

Before owning this car I was of a mind that local charging stations would start popping up the way local gas stations have. After all I see them in all the public parking decks in town. I was told by the car salesman that the Sheets gas stations are all putting in charging stations.

I even downloaded the ChargePoint and EVGo apps to be able to find charging stations.

After owning the car for a month I have radically changed my thinking.

Local EV Charging Stations Will Never be Like Gas Stations


We drive the Bolt 25 to 75 miles a day. We plug it in at home and get a full charge each night.

We will never have a need for a local charging station the way we do for a local gas station.

With our old timey internal combustion engine cars we buy gas only from gas stations. We do not have the option of filling up at home. I know farmers and a few others have their own gas pumps, but most people do not.

Everyone can "fill up" their electric vehicle at home because everyone has electricity at home.

Change Happens Over Time, But It Still Happens


I know I am an early adopter. I know the move away from most cars being gas powered cars is a decade or more away. But that change is coming.

The future is always farther than the past. However, the future is where we are going.

What will be the downstream effects of people not needing to go to the local gas station to buy gas?

What do you think?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Bank Loans and Car Warranty Premiums

How Does the Insured Get the Cancellation Refund


I was standing in line at the bank this week when I overheard a customer asking the teller when the bank was going to give her the refund on her Car Warranty she purchased when she recently bought a new car.

Here is what she had done:

  1. Bought a new car
  2. Bought the new car warranty coverage from the dealership
  3. Paid for the car and the warranty with the loan from the bank
  4. Cancelled the warranty coverage
  5. Asked the car dealer who sold her the warranty coverage for the refund
  6. Car dealer told her she would have to get the refund from the bank since they had the loan


Where did the refund money from the warranty company go?


If the bank had been a premium finance company, the insurance / warranty company would have a record of that and would have sent the refund back through the premium finance company.

But the bank is not a premium finance company. That raises the question...

"Should a bank loan money to pay for a warranty policy - essentially an insurance policy?"

Is the insured just trying to scam the bank loan?


The loan customer supposedly borrowed say $20,000 for the car and $3,000 for the warranty. The loan customer is now trying to get part of that loan back as cash.

Presumably the loan amount is not reduced by the cancellation of the warranty policy. If the loan customer had cancelled the purchase of the car - meaning sold the car - the loan would have to be settled.

Seems kinda tricky to me.

Do you know the answer?


I do not, but I am interested. Please leave a comment to explain.

Thanks.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Does Insurance Agent or Broker Relationship Control in Nevada


Which Relationship Controls in Nevada


In Nevada it is possible for a licensed insurance agent to act as a broker. Nevada rules allow a broker to charge fees under a written agreement for consultation services. Agents are not allowed to charge fees. This means it is important to understand which set of rules apply.


Agent Relationship Controls Broker


https://law.justia.com/codes/nevada/2017/chapter-683a/statute-683a.321/https://law.justia.com/codes/nevada/2017/chapter-683a/statute-683a.321/

"6. A producer who is acting as an agent may also act as and be a broker with regard to insurers for which he or she is not acting as an agent. The sole relationship between an insurer and a broker who is appointed as an agent by the insurer as to any transactions arising during the period in which the broker is appointed as an agent is that of insurer and agent, and not insurer and broker."


Generally speaking the ability to charge fees in Nevada is addressed under the Illegal Dealing in Premiums law. Find that law here...

https://law.justia.com/codes/nevada/2017/chapter-686a/statute-686a.230/

This is a common area of insurance law where additional fees are addressed in many states.

Here is an outside legal opinion published on this issue...

http://www.forc.org/Public/Journals/2015/Articles/Summer/Vol26Ed2Article3.aspx

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Virginia Insurance Agents and Fiduciary Accounts


Premium Trust Accounts for Virginia Insurance Agencies


Virginia does not require a Premium Trust Account for insurance agents, instead Virginia does require a fiduciary account separate from all other business and personal funds.

Here is a link to the law...

https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title38.2/chapter18/section38.2-1813/

§ 38.2-1813. Reporting and accounting for premiums.


A. All premiums, return premiums, or other funds received in any manner by an agent or a surplus lines broker shall be held in a fiduciary capacity and shall be accounted for by such agent or surplus lines broker. 


The Big Exception


Section D of this same link shows the one exception...

"D. This section shall not require any agent who is a duly appointed agent of an insurer and who has a written contractual relationship with such insurer which includes provisions regarding remittance of funds to maintain a separate fiduciary account for the funds. Such funds shall be held separately from any personal or nonbusiness funds and shall be reasonably ascertainable from the books of accounts and records of the agent."

You still need to funds kept in a separate account, but it does not have to be a "fiduciary account".

Monday, August 6, 2018

Insurance Agency Fees in Michigan

What Fees Can Insurance Agents Charge in Michigan



Insurance producers are not allowed to charge or pass a service fee to consumers for insurance policies sold in the admitted market.

Michigan is a non-broker state; therefore, insurance producers act as agents on behalf of their insurance companies instead of their clients.

The only exception applies to licensed surplus lines producers who may charge a fee not exceeding the statutory limit for surplus lines policies only.



Here is the link to a document on the Michigan rules...

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/difs/Market_Conduct_Agency_Audit_News_2017_560214_7.pdf


Friday, August 3, 2018

Can an Illinois Insurance Agent Pay Card Transaction Costs from their PFTA


Illinois and Insurance Premium Trust Accounts


In Illinois insurance premium payments accepted by the agent must be deposited into a PFTA - premium trust account.

Here is the link to the relevant law...

ftp://www.ilga.gov/jcar/admincode/050/050031130000400R.html

If the premium payment is accepted as a debit or credit card payment, is it legal for there to be a withdrawal from your agency PFTA account to pay the transaction cost of those premium payments?

Probably not. Read on....

Limitations of Withdrawals

Here are the things for which you are allowed to withdraw funds from the PFTA.

"Withdrawals can be made for the following reasons:
h)         The following disbursements may be lawfully withdrawn from the PFTA:

1)         Net or gross premium remittances due other licensees or insurers. Claims payments or reinsurance premiums when offset at the direction of the insurer may be transferred to another account;

2)         Return premiums due insureds;

3)         Commissions due the licensee, net of any financial institution fees or service charges, or commissions due another licensee only when the commission withdrawal is matched and identified with premiums previously deposited into the PFTA;

4)         Non-premium monies when matched and identified with prior non-premium PFTA deposits;

5)         Interest or other revenue which the licensee is authorized to retain.


6)         Withdrawals pursuant to subsections (h)(3), (4) and (5) must be made payable to the licensee or another licensee."

I look at this like a named peril insurance policy as opposed to an all-risk insurance policy. If the action is not specifically allowed, then the action is not allowed.

Under this list of reasons I see no permission to withdraw funds to pay the transaction cost to the bank for you credit and debit card payments.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

43 States Limit or Prohibit Insurance Agency Fees


Can Your Insurance Agency Charge a Fee in Addition to Premiums


Having read through all the state insurance codes, bulletins, advisory opinions, notices, regulations and related material I can find - don't I know how to have fun - I have complied an extensive list on how an insurance agency needs to operate to be in compliance with its state's insurance regulators.

43 states have one or more specific rules or laws regarding insurance agency's ability to charge any fee in addition to the insurance premium.

The basic reason for these rules is to require the actual insurance rate to be meaningful. When insurance rates have to be filed and/or approved, allowing additional charges to be added on to the customer bill defeats the purpose of the regulation of the insurance rates. In today's jargon, it provides a hack of the insurance regulatory process.

We Know and Care About Your Compliance


At Simply Easier Payments we spend a great deal of effort understanding your business so we may provide our service in a way that never puts you or your business at risk.

We will never be perfect, but we will work hard and diligently.

We believe any long term business relationship requires this of us.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Premium Payments Deposited to Bank in Your State


Nine States Require You to Use a Bank in Their State


When an insurance agent accepts a premium payment from a customer it always creates a fiduciary responsibility for the insurance agent.

Most states have laws outlining many specifics of how these premium payments must be handled.

These states all require that the premium payments be deposited in a bank or other depository institution with a physical presence in the agent's state or at a minimum regulated by the agent's state's banking regulators.


States Requiring Bank Account in Agency’s State
  1. California – see note
  2. Hawaii
  3. Illinois
  4. Maryland
  5. Nevada
  6. New York
  7. Utah
  8. Washington
  9. Wyoming

NOTE: California requirement is limited to cash payments received at agency. Checks and card payments can be out of state.



Friday, July 27, 2018

Minnesota Insurance Agency Fees Charged to Customers

Minnesota is Wide Open for Insurance Agency Fees


Here is the link to the pertinent law...

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/60K.46

I have read every state's insurance code with a particular focus on what fee insurance agents can charge their insureds in addition to the policy premium. Minnesota is about as accommodating as any state.

Minnesota does require written disclosure, but the disclosure does not require the insured's signature.

The final clause that "all fees charged are reasonable in relations to the services rendered" may also create some theoretical upper limit on the dollar amount.

Here is the text of the law as of this writing.


"Subd. 2.Fees for services.

No person shall charge a fee for any services rendered in connection with the solicitation, negotiation, or servicing of any insurance contract unless:
(1) before rendering the services, a written statement is provided disclosing:
(i) the services for which fees are charged;
(ii) the amount of the fees;
(iii) that the fees are charged in addition to premiums; and
(iv) that premiums include a commission; and
(2) all fees charged are reasonable in relation to the services rendered."

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Kansas Insurance Department Ahead of the Times in 1995


Kansas Insurance Department Policy on Credit Card Payment


On November 6, 1995 the Kansas Department of Insurance issued what I believe to be the VERY FIRST in the nation statement on accepting credit card payments for insurance premiums.

Here is a link to the Bulletin

file:///C:/Users/Duke/Desktop/Card%20Fees%20Summary%20June%202018/Kansas/1995-19%20Accepting%20Credit%20cards%20for%20Premiums%20Bulletin.pdf

The Department was responding to the complaint that the transaction cost of accepting a card payment constituted a REBATE since a significant portion of the premium went to the credit card transaction cost.

I find this to be a wonderfully creative approach to the issue of the high cost of card transactions.

Apparently some agencies and carriers felt it was a marketplace advantage for some companies to offer to accept credit card payments but resisted accepting cards themselves because of the reduction in NET PREMIUM received after the transaction cost.

Looking back on this argument I would suggest they should have taken the position that the rewards points created by payment with a credit card could be considered a rebate since those points can be used as funding to pay for a wide variety of benefits - like airline tickets.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Insurance Agency Fees in Tennessee


Tennessee and What Are Services Associated with an Insurance Policy


The Tennessee law regarding fees an insurance agent can charge an insured brings up the most common issue related to agents charging fees.

Here is a link to a Bulletin from 1998...

https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/commerce/documents/insurance/bulletins/1-08-98.pdf

The issues revolve around what are services that the insured should expect to be included in the premium?

Here is the text of the Bulletin


"“A fee which is not connected with the sale, solicitation, or negotiation of a policy of insurance, and which therefore, would not be included in the term “rate”, may be charged by an agent. Some factors which may be useful in analyzing whether a fee is connected with the sale, solicitation, or negotiation of a policy of insurance are:

1 – Whether the services performed by the agent are associate with the sale, underwriting, issuance, or servicing of a policy of insurance;
2 – Whether compensation is dependent upon the purchase of a policy of insurance;
3 – The date of payment of the fee in relation to the date a policy of insurance was issued.

Although these factors are provided for guidance, the department will continue to review each transaction on a case-by-case basis."


What do you think should be included in normal policy services?


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Florida Insurance Agency Fees and Car Insurance


What Fees Can Be Charged in Florida on Car Insurance


Florida allows two fees to be charged by Licensed General Lines Agents related to car insurance policies.

  • The agent / agency can charge the cost of obtaining a motor vehicle report - with limitations
  • The agent /agency can charge $10 a policy with only PIP and Property Damage - with limitations

The rules for both are at this link...

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_Mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0627/Sec7295.htm&StatuteYear=1998

Cost of MVR

This rule is in Section 5(b). The key take away is your cost for the MVR cannot not be "otherwise compensated". In other words, the insurance company your place this business with cannot reimburse you for the cost.

You cannot charge more than the actual cost of the MVR.

You cannot include in the cost subscription or access fee you may pay.

PIP and Property Damage Only Policies

This rule is in Section 5(a). there are two important issues.

  1. The "policy covers only personal injury protection coverage as provided by s. 627.736 and property damage liability coverage as provided by s. 627.7275 and if no other insurance is sold or issued in conjunction with or collateral to the policy."
  2. "The per-policy fee must be a component of the insurer's rate filing and may not be charged by an agent unless the fee is included in the filing."


It is your responsibility to know if your carrier's rate filing includes this fee.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Florida and Insurance Agency Fees Charged to the Insured


Florida, Rebating and Health Insurance Consulting Fees


Here is the link...
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/STATUTES/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0600-0699/0626/Sections/0626.593.html

Did you know Rebating is not only legal, but required in Florida if a licensed insurance agent charges a fee for providing advice on any health or health benefit plan?

Not only is it required, but if you do receive a fee payment, then...

"all commissions received by an insurance agent from an insurer in connection with the issuance of a policy, when a separate fee or other consideration has been paid to the insurance agent by an insured, shall be rebated to the insured or other party being charged within 30 days after receipt of such commission by the insurance agent."

I guess the lesson here is if you are going to charge a fee, be sure it is more than the commission you would have received.

Signed Contract for Fee Required


In addition to rebating your commission, you can only charge the fee if you have a signed contract for the fee.

"such compensation is based upon a written contract signed by the party to be charged and specifying or clearly defining the amount or extent of such compensation and informing the party to be charged that any commission received from an insurer will be rebated to the party in accordance with subsection (3). In addition, all compensation to be paid to the insurance agent must be disclosed in the contract."

Friday, July 20, 2018

Insurance Agency Fees in Maine


Maine Allows Fees for Only Two Things

From this document - http://www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/faq/producers.html#chargingfees

The basic rule is that fees are not allowed.

Charges for placing insurance must be as indicated in the company's filings; in other words, the regular premiums as filed, and the resulting commissions.

However, there are two circumstances allowing producers to charge fees. 
  • First, producers with surplus lines authority may charge a nominal service charge in connection with surplus lines placements. 
  • Second, fees in addition to or in lieu of commissions may be charged for large commercial property and casualty risks. 

This category is defined in Bureau Regulation Chapter 900: http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/02/031/031c900.doc


What Qualifies as Large Commercial


Based on the above linked document...

A large commercial risk is defined as one whose aggregate annual premiums for commercial property and casualty insurance sold by a producer totals $150,000 or more.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Arkansas Insurance Agency Charging Fees to Insured


Limits on Fees Charged by Insurance Agents in Arkansas


Arkansas does allow agents to charge their customers fees for a wide variety of reasons.

Arkansas places several unique limits on the fees they allow.

Here is the link to the portion of the Arkansas Insurance Code...

https://law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/2017/title-23/subtitle-3/chapter-66/subchapter-3/section-23-66-310/

Here is a link to a very relevant FAQ from the Arkansas Insurance Department...

https://insurance.arkansas.gov/pages/industry-regulation/licensing/frequently-asked-questions/producer-frequently-asked-questions/

Highlights



  • All fees must be shown separately on the invoice or bill
  • Total of all fees and commission cannot exceed 20% of premium
  • In the FAQ, the Department takes the position that an agent can only charge fees once per policy period


With all this said, it seems to me that under the Arkansas insurance rules an insurance agent in Arkansas can charge a convenience fee or surcharge under Visa's rules, but only once - or for one payment.

Since Visa requires that these fees be charged the same on all payments, it does not seem under the Visa rules an insurance agent in Arkansas can charge a convenience fee or surcharge themselves.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Illinois and Fees Allowed by Insurance Agents


Illinois Insurance Agents Can Charge Fees with these Limitations


Here is the link...



The agency may charge fees under the following conditions:

  1. Agent provides written disclosure
  2. If Fee exceeds 10% of premium, disclosure must be signed by insured
  3. If policy is cancelled within 90 days, pro rata portion of fee must be refunded
  4.  No fee can be made for cancellation of policy


If documented that fee was for a service the producer performed corresponding to applicable coverage or policy, the disclosure can state the fee is fully earned immediately

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Arizona Insurance Agency Fees


In Arizona Agents Rules on Fees Differ Based on Line of Business


Arizona seems to allow an insurance agency to charge fees on Personal Lines insurance if they get a signed disclosure from the insured and the fee is reasonably related to the service provided.

The law allowing this states "This section does not apply to insurance producers transacting commercial insurance." Does that mean no fees can be charged for commercial lines policies or that commercial policy fees can be charged without a signed disclosure? I do not know.


Life insurance, annuity, long-term care or medicare supplement insurance are lines of business fro which an Arizona insurance agent cannot charge any additional fee.

Here is the link to this section of the Arizona Insurance Code...


Compliance

Simply Easier Payments is very concerned and aware of the compliance requirements for your agency.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Agency Fees in Kentucky


What Fees can Kentucky Insurance Agents Charge?



Based on the information I was able to find in the Kentucky Insurance Code, there is a contradiction.

Underwriting Fees are specifically mentioned as being allowable as “related to underwriting expenses for a property or casualty insurance contract”. I assume this is reimbursement for items such as accident reports or Motor Vehicle Reports.

Here is a link to that part of the Code - http://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes/statute.aspx?id=17088

Clearly a “Consultant” is allowed to charge fees. Here is the link http://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes/statute.aspx?id=16929


Just as clearly, the consultant cannot accept commissions or act as the agent and also charge fees.

Finally, the “Illegal Dealing in Premiums” seems to state that only premium amounts can be collected. Here is a link to that part of the Kentucky Code - http://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes/statute.aspx?id=17031

Based on these items I assume fees for a surcharge based on the use of a credit card for payment of premiums is not allowed to be charged by an insurance agency in Kentucky.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Iowa Electronic Transactions


Electronic Insurance Transactions in Iowa


Iowa is a state which has kept more current than most in its laws regarding electronic commerce.

Here is the Iowa Code outlining what is required for a legal electronic receipt...




Here is the text. Are you compliant?


Time and place of sending and receipt.

1. Unless otherwise agreed between the sender and the recipient, an electronic record is sent when all of the following occur:

a. The electronic record is addressed properly or otherwise directed properly to an information processing system that the recipient has designated or uses for the purpose of receiving electronic records or information of the type sent and from which the recipient is able to retrieve the electronic record.

b. The electronic record is in a form capable of being processed by that information processing system.

c. The electronic record enters an information processing system outside the control of the sender or of a person who sent the electronic record on behalf of the sender or enters a region of the information processing system designated or used by the recipient which is under the control of the recipient.

2. Unless otherwise agreed between a sender and the recipient, an electronic record is received when both of the following occur:

a. The electronic record enters an information processing system that the recipient has designated or uses for the purpose of receiving electronic records or information of the type sent and from which the recipient is able to retrieve the electronic record.

b. The electronic record is in a form capable of being processed by that information processing system.

3. Subsection 2 applies even if the place the information processing system is located is different from the place the electronic record is deemed to be received under subsection 4.

4. Unless otherwise expressly provided in the electronic record or agreed between the sender and the recipient, an electronic record is deemed to be sent from the sender’s place of business and to be received at the recipient’s place of business. For purposes of this subsection, both of the following apply:

a. If the sender or recipient has more than one place of business, the place of business of such person is the place having the closest relationship to the underlying transaction.

b. If the sender or the recipient does not have a place of business, the place of business is the sender’s or recipient’s residence, as the case may be.

5. An electronic record is received under subsection 2 even if no individual is aware of its receipt.

6. Receipt of an electronic acknowledgment from an information processing system described in subsection 2 establishes that a record was received but, by itself, does not establish that the content sent corresponds to the content received.

7. If a person is aware that an electronic record purportedly sent under subsection 1, or purportedly received under subsection 2, was not actually sent or received, the legal effect of the sending or receipt is determined by other applicable law. Except to the extent permitted or required by the other law, the requirements of this subsection shall not be varied by agreement.

2000 Acts, ch 1189, §17
Referred to in §505B.1



Compliance and Simply Easier Payments



At Simply Easier Payments we take your compliance seriously.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Massachusetts Internet Practices for Insurance


Internet Practices for Insurance Agents


Massachusetts is one of the few states which have directly addressed insurance and the internet.

That is amazing to me.

Equally amazing is how they have addressed it.

The only mention I can find is a 2001 Bulletin from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance.

https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2017/12/14/2001-02.pdf

As was appropriate for the times, it addresses only the advertising potential of the Internet, not the current functions of sales and customer service.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Maryland Insurance Agents and Convenience Fees


Limits on Insurance Payment Convenience Fees in Maryland


Convenience fees are the surcharge a business adds to a payment if the person making the payment is using a credit or debit card to make the payment.

Maryland makes a specific exception for convenience fees for insurance agents.

Here is the link...



The document says this:

Bulletin 17-10
Date Sept 22, 2017

Guidance in Determining the Charge for Actual Expenses by a Licensed Insurance Producer or Qualified Surplus Lines Broker

A licensed insurance producer or a qualified surplus lines broker may set the charge for making payments by credit card at a rate equal to:

1 - the actual expense to be charged at the time of the transaction; or
2 – an amount that is less than or equal to the actual expenses incurred.


Visa Rules on Convenience Fees

Visa's rules on convenience fees require the business (merchant) to make the same flat dollar amount charge on every convenience fee regardless of the amount of the payment.

Example under Visa's Rules:

1 - Customer pays business $100. The business charges a $5.00 convenience fee.

2 - Customer pays business $1,000. The business must charge the same $5.00 convenience fee.

NOTE: Visa does not allow a percentage to be charged for convenience fees.

Here is the Conflict Between Maryland and Visa

Credit card transaction cost are made up of several fees. The largest and most discussed of these fees is the "Discount Rate"

"Discount Rates" are always a percentage.

The actual "Discount Rate" charged fro each payment varies based on the brand of card - Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, DiscoverCard - and the issuing bank or the card, and whether the card is a business or personal card, etc.

The business accepting the card payment has no way of knowing the actual cost of the card transaction in real time.

Maryland only allows the actual expense or less to be charge.

Problems:

1 - You have no way of knowing this amount
2 - Visa requires you to charge the same flat amount for every payment

These two requirements simply cannot both work.

Solution


Using Simply Easier Payments moves the fee away from the agency. You are not charging the fee. That frees us to only have to comply with the Visa Rules - which we do.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

California Premium Trust Accounts and Insurance Payments


California Requires Use of In State Bank for Cash Payments?


On July 18, 2017 Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1460.

It allows insurance agents to use out of state banks for Premium Trust accounts.

But, it had an interesting twist if the agent received the premium payment in cash.

Here is the quote from this overview article...

"The bill would also require any licensee who receives fiduciary funds as cash to initially maintain those funds in a trust account in a bank or savings and loan association in California, licensed by the State of California or the United States government and insured by the FDIC."


What do you think? 

Is this how you are operating your agency?


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

South Carolina Limits on Insurance Agency Convenience Fees

South Carolina Insurance Agents Fees


Can South Carolina insurance agents charge a convenience fee when their customers pay premiums using a credit card?

Yes - BUT - the maximum amount they can charge is $3.00 unless they get specific written approval for for a higher fee from the Insurance Commissioner.

Also, they must get the insured to sign a written agreement for these fees and show the fee as separate from the insurance premiums.


Compliance

We -  Simply Easier Payments - take your compliance very seriously. That means we do our best to keep current on laws and regulations in every state to do our best to never create a compliance issue for you using our service.

Can North Carolina Insurance Agents Charge a Fee fro Credit Card Payments

North Carolina Insurance Premium Payments and Credit Cards


Can an insurance agent charge a fee for accepting premium payments by credit card in North Carolina.
I believe the answer is it depends on the Merchant Contract the agent has with the Processor. If the Merchant contract shows a cost of zero for all transactions, then the agent is complying with the portion of the North Carolina Insurance Code shown here...

§ 58-3-145. Solicitation, negotiation or payment of premiums on insurance policies.
An insurer, agent, or broker may accept payment of an insurance premium by credit card or debit card if the insurer accepting payment by credit card or debit card meets the following conditions:
(1) The insurer complies with the prohibition against unfair discrimination contained in G.S. 58-63-15(7).
(2) The insurer pays the fees charged by the credit card company or debit card issuer for the payment of premiums by credit card or debit card. (1967, c. 1245; 1979, c. 528; 1991, c. 720, s. 7; 1999-365, s. 1; 2011-215, s. 1.)

Compliance

Simply Easier Payments complies with this by having all the Merchant contracts used by its agency partners agree to zero fees and charges for the agency accepting payments by credit or debit cards.

This includes no fees for charge backs.

We take your compliance very seriously. That means we do our best to keep current on laws and regulations in every state to do our best to never create a compliance issue for you using our service.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Insurance Premium Collection in Pennsylvania

Insurance Premium Collection Certificate


Like many states, Pennsylvania has addressed collecting insurance premiums very specifically. Take a quick look at my two previous posts to see some of the details.

If you use a third party to accept ACH, Credit Cards, Debits Cards or e-checks, this specific section of the law needs to be considered.

https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/031/chapter37/s37.17.html


§ 37.17. Collection of premiums requires certificate or license.
 A person who is responsible for the collection and forwarding of premiums for insurance policies shall be deemed to be performing as an agent and shall be required to obtain a certificate and appointment from the insurance entity on whose behalf collection is being performed, or hold a license as a broker. This section does not apply to employes of agents or agencies who exclusively provide clerical support as described in the definition of agent in §  37.1 (relating to definitions). 



Money in Transit or Money at Rest


Is the third party you are using holding the funds at anytime?

If they are this is called "money at rest".

It is our opinion that once a third party holds your funds at rest they fall under this requirement in Pennsylvania to have a certificate or license.

How Do You Know


If you have your own Merchant Account with a bank or other third party for processing electronic payments, then it is our opinion the money processed is in transit, not at rest.

If you have an agreement with an payment aggregator or payment facilitator, then that third party is the actual party collecting and holding the premiums before funding your bank account. In this case it is our opinion that third party needs to be certified or license under this Pennsylvania Law.

You will have an agreement with an aggregator or payment facilitator, but that will not be a true Merchant Agreement. You need to be sure in writing.

Compliance

At Simply Easier Payments we take compliance with all State insurance laws and regulations very seriously. We spend time each year updating our understanding of these issues to be certain we never put our users at risk.


Let me now you thoughts and questions.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Premium Trust Account for Insurance Agents in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Insurance Premium Trust Accounts


Insurance agents in Pennsylvania are required by the Pennsylvania Insurance Code to manage premium payments in specific ways.

Here is a link to the section of the Pennsylvania Code...

https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/031/chapter37/s37.81.html

Here is what the Code says...


§ 37.81. Premium accounts.
 (a)  Insurance agents and brokers who have the express written consent of their entities to mingle premium moneys with their own funds may do so if the following exist:

   (1)  Moneys held in a fiduciary capacity are reasonably ascertainable from the books of account and records of the agents or brokers.

   (2)  Amounts due entities are equal to or less than the combined accounts receivable and current bank balances.

 (b)  An agent or broker who does not have the express consent of his entities to mingle premium moneys with his personal funds shall hold the premium moneys separate from other funds in accordance with the following:

   (1)  An agent or broker who does not make immediate remittance to his entities may not deposit premiums in office operating accounts but shall keep the moneys in a separate bank account from which disbursement may not be made other than for the payment of premiums to the entities, the return of premiums to the insured or the transfer of commissions or the withdrawal of voluntary deposits.

   (2)  Voluntary deposits in the premium account in excess of premiums collected and unpaid to entities may be made for the purpose of maintaining a minimum balance, to guarantee the adequacy of the account or for the purpose of the payment of premiums to the entities in advance of their collection. These deposits may not be withdrawn except to the extent that the remaining balance is equal to the total of net premiums collected and unpaid to entities.

   (3)  The deposit of a premium collection in a separate bank account may not be construed as a mingling by the agent or the broker of the net premium and of the commission portion of the premium. The commission portion of the premiums may be withdrawn from the separate bank account at the discretion of the agent or broker.

   (4)  The maintenance in a separate bank account of at least the net balance of premiums collected and unpaid to the entities by agents operating under the ‘‘account current system’’ shall be construed as compliance with this section and section 633.1 of the act (40 P. S. §  273.1), if the funds so held are readily ascertainable from the books of account and records of agents.

   (5)  Agents and brokers who make immediate remittance of collections to their entities need not maintain separate bank accounts for these collections. To constitute immediate remittance, payment to entities shall be in the same form as the collection was received from the insured.

   (6)  When both an operating and a premium account are maintained by agents and brokers under this section for purposes of segregating premiums collected, the premium account balance shall include funds sufficient to pay premiums collected and any amount delinquent or in dispute with the entity represented. Upon reconciliation of delinquent or disputed accounts, excess moneys remaining in the premium bank account may be withdrawn as if they had been voluntary deposits.

   (7)  An agent may deposit premiums collected from insureds in an interest bearing account when the agent is not required to make an immediate remittance to the entity of premium moneys, if the following are met:

     (i)   The moneys are not placed in an account upon which a penalty may be levied against the principal for early withdrawal.

     (ii)   The moneys are placed in an account insured by the United States Government or instruments secured by the United States government. 

Compliance

At Simply Easier Payments we take compliance with all State insurance laws and regulations very seriously. We spend time each year updating our understanding of these issues to be certain we never put our users at risk.


Let me now you thoughts and questions.

Do You Need an Agent's Licence to Accept Premium Payments in Pennsylvania

Taking Payments and Licensing


It may be strange to think about this question, but Pennsylvania is not alone in addressing this in their State Insurance Laws.

Pennsylvania addresses accepting premiums in several ways. Here is a link to one of the bulletins they have issued on this issue.



The important sections differentiate between in office premium payments and away from office premium payments.

Licensed producer activities:
4. Collecting premiums in person at other than a recorded place of business.

Nonlicensed clerical and CSR activities:
11. Receiving premiums at the recorded place of business where the payment is being made on a binder, endorsement or existing policy.


Compliance


At Simply Easier Payments we take compliance with all State insurance laws and regulations very seriously. We spend time each year updating our understanding of these issues to be certain we never put our users at risk.

Let me now you thoughts and questions.