Department of Commerce orders auto-dialing, unlicensed insurance-selling company to pay $191,185 civil penalty
June 25, 2014
For Immediate Release:
SAINT PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently ordered Variable Marketing LLC, which does business under the name Instant Insurance Marketing to pay a $191,185 civil penalty for making numerous fraudulent and unlicensed solicitations to Minnesota consumers.
Variable Marketing, a Texas LLC, is not licensed by the Commerce Department to sell insurance in the state, nor is the company registered to do business in Minnesota. The company’s business model is a “lead generator” that utilizes automatic dialing announcing devices (also called robo-calls) to connect consumers with a call center which then connects the consumer to an insurance agent licensed in the consumer’s state. In the Department’s investigation, it is alleged that Variable Marketing robo-called 38,237 Minnesota residents in an attempt to sell insurance.
“Robo-call solicitations can be annoying but these are actually deceptive, misleading Minnesotans to believe that they are providing information from the government when it is really an insurance sales call,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Minnesotans should not have to deal with improper sales tricks when looking to protect themselves by purchasing insurance.”
The statement of charges against Variable Marketing LLC, outlines that in addition to engaging in unlicensed activity, the communications to Minnesota consumers regarding the insurance policies were false and misleading because the company represented themselves as acting on behalf of a government agency. The pre-recorded robo-call stated:
This is a public service message regarding information released for drivers licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You are currently overpaying for your auto insurance.
To utilize this free service and adjust your current insurance rate, or for more information, press 1 now. Press 3 to be removed from this list.
Consumers that pressed “1” would hear another message about saving “several hundred dollars” on auto or homeowner’s insurance and would then be connected with the Variable Marketing LLC call center. The statement of charges alleges that once the call center representative collected further information, the consumer was transferred to an insurance agent in Minnesota. It is alleged that Variable Marketing received money for transferring approximately 316 calls to a State Farm Insurance agent in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, who sold at least 20 new policies.
The Commerce Department recommends that Minnesota consumers looking for an insurance agent or broker utilize the Department's Look-Up Tool to ensure that the person or company is licensed to sell insurance in Minnesota. If the person or company is not licensed in our state, it is a red flag that you could be scammed.
Commerce is here to help
The Commerce Department is here if you have questions about insurance, or believe you have been the victim of a scam or fraud. Report the fraud, so that others do not fall victim. If you think you have been a victim, contact the Consumer Response Team at 651-539-1600 or (800) 657-3602.
Complaints can also be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.