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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott reached a final settlement with two auto insurers that will result in estimated refunds of more than $700,000 to Texas policyholders who paid more on their claims for auto repairs than their policies required. According to the AG’s office, Home State County Mutual Insurance Co. agreed to return about $680,000 to almost 2,000 eligible policyholders whose claims for vehicle repairs date back to January 1996. In addition, Consumers County Mutual Insurance Co. will pay refunds of about $19,000 to 142 policyholders. The AG’s office said the companies had engaged in the practice known as “betterment,” in which they claimed that the use of better or newer parts in the repair increased the vehicle’s value. Companies then charged the amount of this “increased value” of the vehicle to the policyholders, thus reducing the amount the company paid for the repairs. Policyholders were then forced to pay the difference to the repair shop. Abbott has successfully settled more than a dozen such cases, alleging that by engaging in betterment, insurance companies have merely increased the value of the replaced part, and not the entire vehicle, as the companies have claimed. Texas law does not permit such a charge or deduction, and auto insurance policies require that the companies fully pay for the repair, less the deductible, even if the parts used were better than the ones they replaced. Under the terms of the announced settlement, Home State and Consumers agreed to no longer engage in this practice and will refund the total amount of overcharges, plus interest, to customers who had auto repair claims dating to January 1996. The AG’s office said that since 2000, it has obtained betterment settlements with Farmers, Texas Farm Bureau, Trinity, State Farm, Nationwide, USAA, Geico, Travelers, Safeco, Sentry, Liberty Mutual, Allstate and CNA insurance companies for an estimated $12.4 million in total refunds.


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