Consumers looking for new insurance options may want to check out a database from the Missouri Department of Insurance that catalogs consumer feedback on insurance companies, both big and small. No doubt, the site’s “complaint index” likely won’t be greeted as good news by some insurers.

The Missouri index measures how many complaints a given insurer gets in a given category over a consecutive three-year period. Different categories – like auto insurance or home insurance – are ranked in separate categories, so consumers can easily log in and check an insurer’s “complaint index” in the category where that consumer may be seeking an insurance policy.

In general, the higher the index number, the worse an insurance company performed. Here’s how the index’s numerical rankings work:

  • 100% means that the department received the normally expected number of complaints about that company.
  • 99% or less indicates the company was the subject of less than the normally expected number of complaints.
  • More than 100% shows the department received more than the normally expected number of complaints about that company.

Consumers looking for a new insurance policy can check out 11,000 complaints involving 1,200 insurance companies nationwide. The index only monitors complaints on insurance companies doing business in Missouri since 2007, but anyone can pop in and check an insurer’s track record.

While the index covers a variety of insurance company services, the emphasis is clearly on direct interaction between insurers and customers.

"I encourage consumers shopping for insurance to find out as much as they can about the companies they're considering," said Insurance Director John M. Huff. "The complaint index gives consumers a look at how an insurance company treats its policyholders, mainly when it comes to handling claims."

Overall, the Missouri Department of Insurance collects about 4,000 consumer complaints annually. The department’s Consumer Affairs Division reports it was able to return $14 million back to consumers, primarily on customers who had been wrongly denied a claim or who were overcharged on premiums.

The consumer advocate blog does a good job of ranking the worst offenders in the Missouri insurance index. The rankings from Consumer Ally, listed below, only take into account insurance companies with average premiums of more than $1 million from 2007 to 2009:

    Universal Casualty Company: Illinois-based automotive insurer; complaint index of 5520.

    American Service Insurance: Midwestern automotive company; complaint index of 1532.

    Affirmative Insurance Services: Headquartered in Chicago and Dallas and offers auto insurance; complaint index of 1441.

    Trader's Insurance Company: Missouri-based automotive insurer with Midwestern reach; complaint index of 1311.

    First Acceptance Auto Insurance: Automotive insurance in 25 states; complaint index of 1296.

    Homesite Indemnity Company: Part of the larger Homesite Group which operates in 47 states; complaint index of 1284.

    Insuremax Insurance Company: Indiana-based automotive insurance company; complaint index of 1191.

    Omni Indemnity Company: Automotive insurance out of Atlanta; complaint index of 1170.

    Direct General Insurance Company: Automotive insurance offered in 13 states; complaint index of 1032.

    Civic Property & Casualty: Homeowners insurance company based in California; complaint index of 728.

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