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NY state here. My wife and I changed car insurance several weeks ago. There was no lapse in insurance, we transitioned from Carrier A to Carrier B smoothly. I submitted my Cancellation Notice with Carrier A and confirmed (from them) that they received it and that they flagged my policy with them to expire effective the date the policy switched over to the new carrier.

Several days later, Carrier A made another monthly autowithdrawal from our bank account, when we no longer had a policy with them. I called them and they admitted it was an error on their end, and said it would be several days to get the amount refunded. Several days later, still no refund. I called again, and again they told me it would take a few more days. This cycle has repeated several times since, and it's obvious to me that they have no intention of actually issuing a refund.

The kicker is: we were using a large portion of the withdrawn amount to finance our Christmas this year. Now that's out the window.

I'd like to look into pressing charges against the carrier, because:

  • They made the withdrawal (I believe) illegally, after we no longer had a policy with them, and even admitted it
  • We've been out a large amount of money (to us, at least) for several weeks now
  • There will be significant emotional loss if the funds aren't recovered in time for Christmas

So I ask: can we press charges? If so, for what? How do we even begin this process?

  • You could take them to small claims court. – phoog Dec 18 '15 at 20:14
  • Thanks @phoog - will small claims court cover the pain and suffering of missing Christmas because of their illegal withdrawal? – Manny Rodriguez Dec 18 '15 at 20:45
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    I think so, but I do not know, nor do I know how likely you would be to prevail on that part of your claim if the court is able to consider it. But in any event your only remedy is likely to be civil, whereas "pressing charges" generally refers to a criminal complaint. I don't think there's any criminal act here. You might be able to allege harassment, but since the explanation is more likely negligence, you might have a hard time with that. – phoog Dec 18 '15 at 21:16
  • I would contact the bank and see if they can put a stop payment on their automatic withdraws. You can close out the account. – user3821 Dec 23 '15 at 4:00
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Big, monolithic insurance companies are typically not seeking to cheat people. But, rather, like all bureaucracies they are like the one-eyed cyclops — very big and powerful but slow to move and not very bright.

Also, unfortunately, courts generally don't award emotional damages. Criminal charges won't accomplish your objective and certainly not in a timely fashion given the urgent nature of the situation.

Here is my suggested course of action:

  1. Immediately write two letters. Address the first one to your state Attorney General's office of consumer affairs. Address the second letter to your state insurance regulator. Explain everything in both factual and emotional terms.

  2. Important: In your letters, make sure to include all your supporting evidence, documentation and materials that completely sustain your case so the reader does not have to rely on gathering additional documents to be persuaded.

  3. Call the insurance company first thing Monday morning and start asking to speak to supervisors. Don't waste any time with the person answering the phone.

  4. When you get the first supervisor on the phone, immediately ask him for his email address so you can send him an advanced copy of the letters you will be sending to the AG and regulators.

  5. If he gives you his email, email the letters to him and have him hold on the phone during the send process. Keep him on the phone until he receives the letters in his inbox.

  6. Have him open the letters with you on the phone. Explain your situation extemporaneously and if the flow of the conversation warrants it, read the letters to him.

  7. Ask him what he can do today to resolve the situation. If he says nothing, ask to speak to the manager he reports to. If he says it's a different department, ask for that department.

  8. Repeat the process until you get some satisfaction (hopefully an overnighted check) or they stymie you from making progress up the chain. If you get stymied, immediately send the letters to the AG and regulators. Then call back and explain what you just did and why. Then try to continue the process until they either hang up on you or you get an overnighted check.

  9. Important: During this entire process, never get angry or abusive because that will just let them "off-the-hook" with a legitimate excuse to hang up on you. Don't give them any reason to get you off the phone before you get a promise of:

    • an overnight check and
    • the name a person and phone number you can call to get the tracking number.
  10. Whatever happens, make sure you follow up.

The keys to making this approach work (which admittedly is a long shot) are:

  1. Be the "squeaky wheel." Assert. Be pro-active. Pick up the phone. Make calls. And ask to speak to supervisors and managers who can make decisions and make things happen.

  2. Be polite. But also be assertive, direct and persistent.

  3. Don't make threats or demands. But instead ask pointed questions. Like: "What can you do to resolve this situation today?" Typically, bureaucracies are limited by policy, not motives; and believe me, they don't want you on their back. The will want you to go away happy if you take this approach.

Good luck!

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No, generally only the state can "press charges." You can encourage the state to do that by reporting the saga to the Attorney General, which typically maintains an office devoted to consumer protection. That office may help resolve your problem, or it may just add it to a file and when the file gets big enough it will prosecute the business.

Insurers also have a state regulator, and you could report your grievance to the regulator. The possible results are the same as with the Attorney General, but typically the regulators are more focused on their subjects.

You should also notify your bank that it was a "fraudulent" transaction ("fraudulent" in quotes because there's a good chance it was in reality either an honest or negligent mistake). Banks have offices devoted to dealing with those.

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