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The following are defined as unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance:
(1) Misrepresentation and false advertising of insurance policies. -- No person shall make, issue, circulate, or cause to be made, issued or circulated, any estimate, circular, statement, sales presentation, omission or comparison which:
(a) Misrepresents the benefits, advantages, conditions or terms of any insurance policy; or
(b) Misrepresents the dividends or share of the surplus to be received on any insurance policy; or
(c) Makes any false or misleading statements as to the dividends or share of surplus previously paid on any insurance policy; or
(d) Is misleading or is a misrepresentation as to the financial condition of any person, or as to the legal reserve system upon which any life insurer operates; or
(e) Uses any name or title of any insurance policy or class of insurance policies misrepresenting the true nature thereof; or
(f) Is a misrepresentation for the purpose of inducing or tending to induce the lapse, forfeiture, exchange, conversion or surrender of any insurance policy; or
(g) Is a misrepresentation for the purpose of effecting a pledge or assignment of or effecting a loan against any insurance policy; or
(h) Misrepresents any insurance policy as being shares of stock.
(2) False information and advertising generally. -- No person shall make, publish, disseminate, circulate or place before the public, or cause, directly or indirectly, to be made, published, disseminated, circulated or placed before the public, in a newspaper, magazine or other publication, or in the form of a notice, circular, pamphlet, letter or poster or over any radio or television station, or in any other way, an advertisement, announcement or statement containing any assertion, representation or statement with respect to the business of insurance or with respect to any person in the conduct of his or her insurance business, which is untrue, deceptive or misleading.
(3) Defamation. -- No person shall make, publish, disseminate or circulate, directly or indirectly, or aid, abet or encourage the making, publishing, disseminating or circulating of any oral or written statement or any pamphlet, circular, article or literature which is false, or maliciously critical of or derogatory to the financial condition of any person and which is calculated to injure the person.
(4) Boycott, coercion and intimidation. -- No person shall enter into any agreement to commit, or by any concerted action commit, any act of boycott, coercion or intimidation resulting in or tending to result in unreasonable restraint of, or monopoly in, the business of insurance.
(5) False statements and entries. -- (a) No person shall knowingly file with any supervisory or other public official, or knowingly make, publish, disseminate, circulate or deliver to any person, or place before the public, or knowingly cause directly or indirectly, to be made, published, disseminated, circulated, delivered to any person, or placed before the public, any false material statement of fact as to the financial condition of a person.
(b) No person shall knowingly make any false entry of a material fact in any book, report or statement of any person or knowingly omit to make a true entry of any material fact pertaining to the business of any person in any book, report or statement of such person.
(6) Stock operations and advisory board contracts. -- No person shall issue or deliver or permit agents, officers or employees to issue or deliver, agency company stock or other capital stock, or benefit certificates or shares in any common-law corporation, or securities or any special or advisory board contracts or other contracts of any kind promising returns and profits as an inducement to insurance.
(7) Unfair discrimination. -- (a) No person shall make or permit any unfair discrimination between individuals of the same class and equal expectation of life in the rates charged for any contract of life insurance or of life annuity or in the dividends or other benefits payable thereon, or in any other of the terms and conditions of the contract.
(b) No person shall make or permit any unfair discrimination between individuals of the same class and of essentially the same hazard in the amount of premium policy fees, or rates charged for any policy or contract of accident and sickness insurance or in the benefits payable thereunder, or in any of the terms or conditions of the contract, or in any other manner whatever.
(c) As to kinds of insurance other than life and accident and sickness, no person shall make or permit any unfair discrimination in favor of particular persons, or between insureds or subjects of insurance having substantially like insuring, risk and exposure factors or expense elements, in the terms or conditions of any insurance contract, or in the rate or amount of premium charge therefor. This paragraph shall not apply as to any premium or premium rate in effect pursuant to article twenty of this chapter.
(8) Rebates. -- (a) Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, no person shall knowingly permit or offer to make or make any contract of life insurance, life annuity, or accident and sickness insurance, or agreement as to any contract other than as plainly expressed in the insurance contract issued thereon, or pay or allow or give or offer to pay, allow or give, directly or indirectly, as inducement to any insurance or annuity, any rebate of premiums payable on the contract, or any special favor or advantage in the dividends or other benefits thereon, or any valuable consideration or inducement whatever not specified in the contract; or give or sell, or purchase or offer to give, sell or purchase as inducement to any insurance contract or annuity or in connection therewith, any stocks, bonds or other securities of any insurance company or other corporation, association or partnership, or any dividends or profits accrued thereon, or anything of value whatsoever not specified in the contract.
(b) Nothing in subdivision (7) or paragraph (a) of subdivision (8) of this section shall be construed as including within the definition of unfair discrimination or rebates any of the following practices:
(i) In the case of any contract of life insurance or life annuity, paying bonuses to policyholders or otherwise abating their premiums, in whole or in part, out of surplus accumulated from nonparticipating insurance: Provided, That any such bonuses or abatement of premiums shall be fair and equitable to policyholders and for the best interests of the insurer and its policyholders;
(ii) In the case of life insurance policies issued on the industrial debit plan, making allowance to policyholders who have continuously for a specified period made premium payments directly to an office of the insurer in an amount which fairly represents the saving in collection expenses;
(iii) Readjustment of the rate of premium for a group insurance policy based on the loss or expense thereunder, at the end of the first or any subsequent policy year of insurance thereunder, which may be made retroactive only for such policy year;
(iv) Issuing life or accident and sickness policies on a salary savings or payroll deduction plan at a reduced rate commensurate with the savings made by the use of the plan.
(c) With respect to insurance other than life, accident and sickness, ocean marine or marine protection and indemnity insurance, no person shall knowingly charge, demand or receive a premium for the insurance except in accordance with an applicable filing on file with the commissioner. No person shall pay, allow or give, directly or indirectly, either as an inducement to insurance or after insurance has been effected, any rebate, discount, abatement, credit or reduction of the premium named in a policy of insurance, or any special favor or advantage in the dividends or other benefits to accrue thereon, or any valuable consideration or inducement whatever, not specified in the policy of insurance, except to the extent provided for in an applicable filing. No insured named in a policy of insurance, nor any relative, representative or employee of the insured shall knowingly receive or accept directly or indirectly, any rebate, discount, abatement, credit or reduction of premium, or any special favor or advantage or valuable consideration or inducement. Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the payment of commissions or other compensation to duly licensed agents and brokers, nor as prohibiting any insurer from allowing or returning to its participating policyholders, members or subscribers, dividends, savings or unabsorbed premium deposits. As used in this section the word “insurance” includes suretyship and the word “policy” includes bond.
(9) Unfair claim settlement practices. -- No person shall commit or perform with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice any of the following:
(a) Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions relating to coverages at issue;
(b) Failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims arising under insurance policies;
(c) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of claims arising under insurance policies;
(d) Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation based upon all available information;
(e) Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after proof of loss statements have been completed;
(f) Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear;
(g) Compelling insureds to institute litigation to recover amounts due under an insurance policy by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in actions brought by the insureds, when the insureds have made claims for amounts reasonably similar to the amounts ultimately recovered;
(h) Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable man would have believed he was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application;
(i) Attempting to settle claims on the basis of an application which was altered without notice to, or knowledge or consent of, the insured;
(j) Making claims payments to insureds or beneficiaries not accompanied by a statement setting forth the coverage under which payments are being made;
(k) Making known to insureds or claimants a policy of appealing from arbitration awards in favor of insureds or claimants for the purpose of compelling them to accept settlements or compromises less than the amount awarded in arbitration;
(l) Delaying the investigation or payment of claims by requiring an insured, claimant, or the physician of either to submit a preliminary claim report and then requiring the subsequent submission of formal proof of loss forms, both of which submissions contain substantially the same information;
(m) Failing to promptly settle claims, where liability has become reasonably clear, under one portion of the insurance policy coverage in order to influence settlements under other portions of the insurance policy coverage;
(n) Failing to promptly provide a reasonable explanation of the basis in the insurance policy in relation to the facts or applicable law for denial of a claim or for the offer of a compromise settlement;
(o) Failing to notify the first party claimant and the provider(s) of services covered under accident and sickness insurance and hospital and medical service corporation insurance policies whether the claim has been accepted or denied and if denied, the reasons therefor, within fifteen calendar days from the filing of the proof of loss: Provided, That should benefits due the claimant be assigned, notice to the claimant shall not be required: Provided, however, That should the benefits be payable directly to the claimant, notice to the health care provider shall not be required. If the insurer needs more time to investigate the claim, it shall so notify the first party claimant in writing within fifteen calendar days from the date of the initial notification and every thirty calendar days, thereafter; but in no instance shall a claim remain unsettled and unpaid for more than ninety calendar days from the first party claimant's filing of the proof of loss unless, as determined by the insurance commissioner: (1) There is a legitimate dispute as to coverage, liability or damages; or (2) the claimant has fraudulently caused or contributed to the loss. In the event that the insurer fails to pay the claim in full within ninety calendar days from the claimant's filing of the proof of loss, except for exemptions provided above, there shall be assessed against the insurer and paid to the insured a penalty which will be in addition to the amount of the claim and assessed as interest on the claim at the then current prime rate plus one percent. Any penalty paid by an insurer pursuant to this section shall not be a consideration in any rate filing made by the insurer.
(10) Failure to maintain complaint handling procedures. -- No insurer shall fail to maintain a complete record of all the complaints which it has received since the date of its last examination under section nine, article two of this chapter. This record shall indicate the total number of complaints, their classification by line of insurance, the nature of each complaint, the disposition of these complaints, and the time it took to process each complaint. For purposes of this subsection, “complaint” shall mean any written communication primarily expressing a grievance.
(11) Misrepresentation in insurance applications. -- No person shall make false or fraudulent statements or representations on or relative to an application for an insurance policy, for the purpose of obtaining a fee, commission, money or other benefit from any insurer, agent, broker or individual.
(12) Failure to maintain privacy of consumer financial and health information. -- Any licensee who violates any provision of the commissioner's rule relating to the privacy of consumer financial and health information shall be deemed to have violated the provisions of this article: Provided, That any licensee who complies with the provisions of this subsection, a commissioner's rule, or a court order shall not be deemed to be in violation of any other provisions of sections three and four of this article by their compliance with this subsection, the rule or court order. For purposes of this subsection, “licensee” means all licensed insurers, producers and other persons licensed or required to be licensed, or authorized or required to be authorized, or registered or required to be registered pursuant to this chapter.
Cite this article: FindLaw.com - West Virginia Code Chapter 33. Insurance § 33-11-4. Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices defined - last updated January 01, 2020 | https://codes.findlaw.com/wv/chapter-33-insurance/wv-code-sect-33-11-4.html
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