Texas Department of Insurance Accused of Intentionally Blocking Emails

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According to a recent article in the Austin American Statesman, the state advocacy group for insurance customers, Texas Watch, is claiming that the Texas Department of Insurance intentionally blocked nearly 900 emails which were being sent to the agency's commissioner Eleanor Kitzman as part of a mass email campaign. Texas Watch had organized a mass email campaign for July 13th to make it possible for hundreds of Texans to send emails directly to Ms. Kitzman. The purpose of the emails was to have Kitzman address homeowners' insurance rates. According to the reports from Texas Watch, the first 334 emails went through but more than 900 were rejected. Texas Watch then attempted to send the emails to Cassie Brown, the department's deputy commissioner for regulatory policy, but those were also blocked.

The Texas Department of Insurance released a statement Friday saying it is investigating the rejected emails. TDI is quoted as saying "We learned today that some emails may have been returned to their original senders. We are investigating how this occurred and whether the large volume of emails in a short period of time may have triggered agency Internet security measures." The Executive Director of Texas Watch, Alex Winslow, is not buying it. According to Winslow, the emails were sent in an identical fashion as emails the group has sent previously to other state leaders.

In the emails in question, the senders questioned a comment made by Ms. Kitzman at a legislative hearing, where she apparently told state senators that there is nothing TDI can do in the near future to help consumers with the high costs of homeowners insurance. In the form email, citizens made suggestions such as requiring carriers to offer a standard policy so consumers can make better policy comparisons, preventing insurers from shifting costs to consumers by raising deductibles, and limiting underwriting profits and administrative costs.

In an attempt to make sure TDI received the messages from the 900 citizens whose emails were rejected, Alex Winslow in a letter to Kitzman stated that he would have the letters hand-delivered. He was also quoted in the letter as saying "It may be inconvenient for you to hear from Texans who are tired of waiting for the relief they were promised nearly a decade ago, but you have a duty to consider their needs. He went on to write, "In order to successfully carry out your agency's statutory obligation to 'protect and ensure the fair treatment of consumers,' you must be willing to at least listen to their concerns."

The issued TDI statement said the commissioner and the staff have reviewed the suggestions and are taking them seriously. The statement went on to say "Insurance can be complex, and meaningful long-term solutions require thoughtful consideration and collaboration," and that "TDI welcomes all feedback from the Texas insurance consumers we serve and endeavors to respond to all communications as quickly as possible."

If you or someone you know has been treated unfairly during the claims handling process by your insurance company, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by phone at 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584. You should also file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance, notify your state representative and senator in writing about your problems, and share your story with Texas Watch.

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