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Allstate and American Family refunding $800 million in auto insurance premiums

Two major auto insurance companies said they will return roughly $800 million in premiums to customers because shelter-in-place advisories around the country have led to fewer drivers on the road. A third insurer said it credit customers' accounts if they have car or motorcycle insurance.

Allstate, which is giving back $600 million, said its customers will have 15% of their normal premium payments refunded in April and May. American Family Insurance said it's refunding more than $200 million in premiums. Geico said its auto and motorcycle customers will receive a 15% credit. The plans come after consumer-advocacy groups urged insurance regulators to ensure customer relief.

Government stay-at-home orders aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic have created "an unprecedented decline in driving," Allstate CEO Tom Wilson said in a statement. He said refunding customers "is fair because less driving means fewer accidents." 

Allstate customers will receive refunds in their bank account, on their credit card or as a credit on their bill. The company's refund program also applies to Esurance and Encompass customers, two Allstate subsidiaries. Allstate also said it's offering customers free identity protection for the rest of the year.

American Family said it will send $50 per insured vehicle to customers. The typical household will get $100. All told, 2.3 million checks will be mailed over the next two months, American Family said. The rebates apply only to customers with a policy as of March 11. 

American Family.s chief operating officer, Telisa Yancy, said customers are filing fewer car accident claims in recent weeks and deserve rebates.

"American Family-brand data illustrates our customers are not driving as much," CEO Jack Salzwedel said in a statement. "As a result, we believe they've overpaid in their premiums. It's our duty to return that premium because it belongs to them."

Navigating financial uncertainty amid the coronavirus crisis

Under Geico's plan, the average auto customer will see a $150 credit and the average motorcycle customer will see $30 credited. The company will credit about $2.5 billion in total, Geico CEO Todd Combs told customers in an email Wednesday.

Other auto insurers, such as Farmer's, Liberty Mutual and State Farm, have yet to announce similar refund programs. 

American Family and Allstate's plan drew praise from the Consumer Federation of America and other advocacy groups that have called for auto premium rebates. 

"The actions by American Family and Allstate are the right thing to do to help policyholders beleaguered by COVID-19 restrictions and job loss," the federation's insurance director, J. Robert Hunter, said in a statement. 

In a March 18 letter, consumer groups argued that auto insurance rates are based on driving frequency, noting that millions of Americans are out of work and not getting behind the wheel. 

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