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Ohio Gov. Taft Orders Review of Ads for Auto Insurance in State Registration Renewals

WASHINGTON, February 7, 2006 - You get your vehicle registration renewal notice in the mail. It says you must certify that you have...
February 7, 2006

Governor's Action Follows Request from Professional Insurance Agents of Ohio

WASHINGTON, February 7, 2006  - You get your vehicle registration renewal notice in the mail. It says you must certify that you have insurance and threatens fines, penalties and the loss of your driver license if you don't. Enclosed in the notice is an ad for auto insurance from one insurance company.

The Professional Insurance Agents Association of Ohio (PIA) wrote to Gov. Bob Taft to object to the practice. As a result, Taft launched a review of the matter, after stating that he is very troubled by insurance companies advertising through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

"PIA appreciates Governor Taft's responsiveness on this important issue," said PIA of Ohio Executive Vice President George Haenszel. "We are hopeful that his review will lead to appropriate action to stop this practice by the BMV."

PIA of Ohio initially objected to the practice in a letter to Taft from PIA of Ohio President Tom Wagner.

"PIA believes that it is highly inappropriate and objectionable for any communication generated by the BMV to contain advertisements for an individual auto insurance carrier," said PIA of Ohio President Tom Wagner in the letter to Taft. "Our concern is heightened by the fact that this advertisement is being included with a vehicle registration renewal notice, which requires drivers to certify that they will carry insurance coverage or other minimum financial responsibility."

Last summer, the state of Ohio entered into an agreement with Waltham, Mass.-based marketing firm Imagitas, which took over the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles' job of mailing out 2.2 million annual renewals. Ohio drivers who received their vehicle registration renewal through the mail also found a folded advertisement for auto insurance in the envelope.

"It doesn't matter which insurance company is doing the advertising," said George Haenszel. "No insurance company should be allowed to advertise in an official notice that comes from a state enforcement agency."

The members of PIA of Ohio are independent insurance agents, who don't offer insurance from only one company. Instead, they represent multiple companies.

"PIA strongly believes that it is inappropriate for an Ohio government agency in charge of compliance to be in the business of steering the motoring public toward any particular insurance company," added Wagner. "Including such advertisements makes it appear that the state of Ohio, which requires drivers to carry insurance, is endorsing one insurance company."

The campaign brought praise from the agents association's national leaders. PIA National President Ray L. Peretti congratulated the agents in Ohio. "Our hats are off to our PIA members in Ohio for fighting this ill-advised program." he said.

Founded in 1931, PIA is a national trade association which represents member insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance, but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses. PIA is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2006.