The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, prompted by cases involving companies including Allianz ( AZ), has passed regulations to help protect consumers, particularly the elderly, from unscrupulous, abusive sales practices and fraud. States will adopt the insurance regulations through their insurance commissioners. "Especially in these trying economic times, Americans should be able to trust the people who handle their money," said NAIC President and Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. Jerri Franz, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Financial Services, said Gov. Charlie Crist has already signed the measure, known as the John and Patricia Seibel Act, which will be effective from Jan. 1. Penalties will rise to $250,000 from $100,000. The new regulation comes after companies have been fined millions of dollars for abusive practices. Citizens Financial Group ( CFG), a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland ( RBS), was fined $3 million in 2005 after a civil suit complaining about sales tactics on variable annuities. The company was forced to change its practices. Conseco ( CNO) earlier this year agreed to a $30 million settlement with NAIC over systemic consumer abuse allegations, and Allianz was sued late last year by Minnesota's attorney general for deceptive practices. The settlement included payment of $500,000 in fees and full refunds of annuities. The new model regulation also establishes standards for the use of elderly-specific certifications and professional designations in the sale or solicitation of life insurance and annuities. Individuals selling these products, particularly to senior citizens, often boast designations and credentials that use terms such as "certified," "accredited," "retirement planner," "senior adviser" or "senior consultant." The NAIC model regulation prohibits the use of such senior-specific certifications or professional designations in advising or servicing the elderly in the purchase of life insurance and annuities.