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Consumer Protection Coalition Applauds Commerce Committee's Passage of House Assignment of Benefits (AOB) Bill

Sun Sentinel

Originally published by Consumer Protection Coalition   |   View Story

The Consumer Protection Coalition today applauded the House Commerce Committee for moving forward House Bill 1421, which takes positive steps toward stopping Assignment of Benefits abuse.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. James “J.W.’’ Grant, contains commonsense consumer protections that would curb abusive AOB practices that are driving up insurance premiums and threatening the affordability of home ownership for many Floridians.

“This bill is a strong starting point for addressing AOB abuse and the resulting rising insurance rates caused by unscrupulous repair vendors and trial attorneys,’’ said Edie Ousley, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the Consumer Protection Coalition. “We are encouraged by the House Commerce Committee’s action to keep AOB reform efforts alive this session and are calling on lawmakers in the Senate to follow the House’s lead.’’

The Consumer Protection Coalition continues to affirm that any legislation to reform AOB should eliminate one-way attorney fees, which create incentives for third parties to sue insurers over inflated claims without financial risk.

Both Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. CEO Barry Gilway have testified that one-way attorney fees are the single-biggest factor fueling the explosion of water damage claims and AOB lawsuits that are driving up insurance costs for consumers. While HB 1421 does not provide an outright ban on one-way attorney fees, it does provide some restrictions on their use, which are an improvement over the current situation.

“While we continue to believe strongly that AOB reform efforts must eliminate oneway attorney fees, we are pleased that the House bill acknowledges that one-way attorney fees are a serious problem and must be addressed,’’ Ousley said. “The attorney fee provisions in Rep. Grant’s bill are a clear step forward.”

The Consumer Protection Coalition noted that legislators have heard testimony for five consecutive years about the growth of AOB abuse. Legislators have also received clear data and evidence from the state’s insurance regulator and from Citizens that homeowners – especially those living in the tri-county area of South Florida - will see their annual homeowners’ premiums rise by thousands of dollars over the next five years if the Legislature fails to enact reforms.

Failing to take action this session to protect consumers will only worsen the AOB problem, leading to more lawsuits and higher insurance rates for consumers, not just in South Florida, but in many other areas of the state.

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The Consumer Protection Coalition is a broad-based group of business leaders, consumer advocates, real estate agents, construction contractors, insurance agents and insurance trade groups pushing for reforms to end Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse. Learn more about the Coalition at www.FightFraud.Today.