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Members of the Consumer Protection Coalition and the Florida Association of Insurance Agents march from downtown Tallahassee to the state Capitol to raise awareness about Assignment of Benefits abuse and its negative impact on consumers. Photo: Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Influence

The anti-AOB abuse crowd picks up remediation companies

Two water and mold restoration companies have joined a Florida Chamber of Commerce-led effort to stop abuse of assignment of benefits agreements, or AOBs.

They are Rytech and VetCor Services. Also joining the Consumer Protection Coalition Tuesday was the Insurance Information Institute and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

“Rytech is a strong supporter of the coalition and its work to end AOB abuse,” said Daniel Kurzweil, the company’s marketing and business development director for South Florida. Rytech is headquartered in Kennesaw, Ga.

“Contractors don’t need AOBs to get paid by insurance companies, and those who pressure customers to sign them and abuse AOBs are hurting our industry and all the contractors trying to make an honest living,” he said. “It’s important we do something to stop these contractors from preying on customers for their own gain.”

“Assignment of benefits abuse has created a cottage industry and status quo within the insurance industry that is perpetuated by bad public policy and legislation that must be fixed,” said Paul Huszar, VetCor’s president and CEO.

The company, based in Tampa, primarily employs military veterans.

“These conditions are significantly impacting all citizens throughout our state by raising insurance rates. My team and I look forward to working with the Consumer Protection Coalition and industry partners to educate the public about AOB abuse in order to stop these practices that are hurting our citizens.”

AOBs allow policyholders to cede the ability to file insurance claims to contractors. The Chamber, many in the insurance industry, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation argue that dodgy contractors use AOBs to file illegitimate lawsuits against carriers that drive up premiums. The Legislature has debated reform legislation for two years without agreeing upon an approach.

“Support for the Consumer Protection Coalition is growing,’’ said Edie Ousley, the chamber’s vice president for public affairs.

“As awareness of the issue increases, more organizations are seeing the impact of AOB abuse on real people and want to get involved to stop it. We look forward to leveraging these members’ knowledge and expertise as we seek reforms in the 2019 legislative session to protect Floridians,” she said.

“Raising awareness about AOB is key to stopping the abuse and preventing fraudulently inflated claims. By getting involved in the coalition, we hope to better inform and educate the public on the dangers of signing an AOB so they don’t become victims,” said Lynne McChristian, the institute’s Florida’s representative. The organization describes itself as an industry information clearinghouse.

“We have been watching AOB abuse grow in Florida for some time now, and believe reform is critical to protecting policyholders and insurers from dishonest practices that are driving up the cost and reducing the availability of insurance,” said Alan Haskins, the Crime Bureau’s VP for government affairs.

“The NICB and its 1,100 members are eager to work with the coalition to raise public awareness of the issue and stop AOB abuse in Florida and other parts of the country,” he said.

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