Smart Talk Dec. 8 

Car insurance: one-way street?

Tom Thrash, the Little Rock trial lawyer who has made something of a career of pestering the insurance industry, has a question. He’s filed a class action lawsuit in Union County that says insurance companies — which are quick to raise your car insurance rates when you get a ticket or get in a wreck — don’t lower them on renewals three years after the last reported incident.

What has Thrash perturbed additionally is this. State Insurance Commissioner Julia Benafield Bowman has filed an affidavit in the case, in support of the defendant insurance company. Her affidavit says rate-making is solely the job of her agency and that Thrash had never complained to HER about any ratemaking “alleged to be inconsistent with its regulatory filings.”

Says Thrash: “This is simply a clear indication that our Arkansas insurance commissioner works for the insurance companies and not the consumer.”

Just because Huckabee said it …

The following quote is from an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article Aug. 24 about Gov. Mike Huckabee’s trip to New Hampshire to dip a toe into the presidential race with several appearances before Republican groups. The quote:

“Huckabee said ‘no tax dollars’ are being used for the New Hampshire trip. He said some of the expenses likely will be shouldered by the Healthy America Political Action Committee, which he formed in July.”

Reporting by the Arkansas Times has shown that 1) the State Police twin-engine aircraft and its taxpayer-financed pilot were dispatched to New Hampshire to fly Huckabee on to Georgia for a governors’ meeting in August, rather than having Huckabee fly commercial to the meeting in Greensboro, Ga., and 2) Huckabee has not reimbursed the state for that or any of his numerous other jaunts in the twin-engine King Air. It costs thousands of dollars in fuel, maintenance, plane depreciation and staff time each time it takes to the sky. Note: When other state agencies use the plane, they receive a bill and reimburse the State Police for use of the plane. There is no state law that puts the plane at the governor’s disposal for travel, official or otherwise.

Checking in

A reader/Wal-Mart customer from Rogers e-mailed us recently with a question sparked by a phone call she received on her cell business line from a Gallup employee who said he was doing a follow-up survey about her recent visit to the Neighborhood Market in Rogers. When pressed, the caller said Wal-Mart gleaned her name and phone number from a check she wrote — but no financial information, he promised. Aren’t there laws to protect such an invasion of privacy? she wanted to know.

Well, no. It’s perfectly legal for businesses to use their customers’ information for internal marketing purposes, said Matt DeCample, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

For the record, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said the company doesn’t take information from checks, but rather once a year asks check-Ah, cash. So simple, so anonymous.


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