News Release

New Jersey Department of
Banking and Insurance
Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release:  November 18, 2003

For Further Information::  Mary Caffrey
or Bill Heine - (609) 292-5064

Commissioner Announces Consumer Protection Actions
Market conduct exams ensure compliance with New Jersey laws and regulations

TRENTON - Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke announced today a number of actions that underscore the Department's commitment to protecting consumers.

Recent market conduct examinations by the Office of Consumer Protection Services work to ensure that auto insurance applications and claims are filed in a timely manner, that policyholders are provided with the basis for any cancellation, and that all aspects of fraud are investigated.

In recently adopted examinations, the Department took the following actions:

"The Department works every day to protect consumers in the insurance marketplace," Commissioner Bakke said. "Consumers would not be aware of market activities that may be improper or place an unfair burden on them had it not been for our examinations of companies' practices."

The Market Conduct Unit within the Office of Consumer Protection Services conducts on-site reviews of insurance company and agency operations and business practices to determine whether they are in accordance with New Jersey's laws. The unit examines life, health, property/casualty and managed care companies, with specialty lines being reviewed as appropriate.

Based on the findings of an examination, the Department issues a report that includes findings and recommendations to correct company procedures that adversely affect consumers or do not comply with New Jersey laws. Significant findings may result in further administrative action leading to fines, payments to consumers or additional benefits to policyholders.

"This important process helps promote a climate of fair competition in the marketplace and protects consumers from practices that violate their rights under insurance laws," Commissioner Bakke said.

"Market conduct examinations are important consumer protection tools," said Assistant Commissioner Lee Barry, who oversees the Office of Consumer Protection Services. "Consumers win when we gain the companies' cooperation to correct the problems found in these examinations."

"We're here to protect consumers, many of whom are not aware of the requirements our laws and regulations place on companies," said Cliff Day, manager of the Market Conduct Unit. "Many consumers are not fully aware of these requirements. Therefore, we are their advocate."

Market conduct examinations are just one way the Department monitors the insurance marketplace. It also monitors companies' financial solvency, follows up on all consumer complaints received by telephone, letter and e-mail, and interacts with consumers on a daily basis through its consumer centers based in Newark and Camden.