Insurer’s TV message runs afoul of state law, consumer group says
A television commercial advertising insurer the Travelers Cos. Inc. is deceptive and should be stopped, a Texas consumer advocacy group said Tuesday.
Texas Watch Executive Director Alex Winslow has written to both Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin, seeking a ceaseand-desist order to keep the ad off the air in Texas.
In the advertisement, titled “Driving Your House,” a man is seen driving through the desert in what appears to be a wall-less house on wheels. The man gets into an accident, which spreads the house’s contents across the desert roadside.
As the homeowner-driver flies through the air — along with furniture and a cat — a voiceover says: “Without the right auto insurance, a crash might impact more than your car. Make sure you’re properly covered, so when you’re driving your car, you’re not
risking your house.”
The ad concludes with the tagline: “Travelers. Take the scary out of life.”
Winslow said the message implies that if homeowners don’t carry adequate automobile insurance, then they could lose their homes. But the Texas Constitution has homestead protections that prevent the forced sale of a home in most circumstances, Winslow said.
“What’s particularly troubling about this ad is that it is preying on the fears that many people have about losing their home in our current economic crisis,” Winslow said. “Insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to deceive their customers into buying more overpriced insurance.”
Travelers representatives declined to comment Tuesday.
Jerry Hagins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, said his office has received the letter and that staff members have been assigned to review the matter. “We’re very concerned about an ad of this nature,” he said, “and we’ll communicate with the company quickly.”
The state insurance department and attorney general each have the authority to demand that a company stop running an ad.
Tom Kelley, a spokesman for Abbott, said his office also received the letter from Texas Watch. He said the insurance practices attorneys will review it, as they have done in similar cases.
In 2005, Abbott issued a cease and desist order to the Allstate Corp. after the company ran an ad that featured a family that lost its home and savings because it didn’t carry enough automobile insurance. In a letter, Abbott’s office told Allstate that the ad violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act and the state’s insurance code.
Allstate pulled the ad, so no lawsuit was necessary, Kelley said.