When people do something wrong, their inclination is to conceal it. That being the case, reading the following press release from an outfit called Consumer Watchdog raised a red flag, even as it piqued my curiosity:
"Consumer Advocates Call for Refunds, Rate Reductions, for Allstate Policyholders After Company Releases Internal Documents Revealing It Intentionally Underpaid Customers."Leaving aside the headline's atrocious length, its message jars: it finds fault with an entity that seems to have done something commendable by giving the public a thorough look into its inner workings.
In the lead paragraph the press release affirms that the carrier made 150,000 pages of documentation available over its Web site. "Was Allstate forced to release the documents?" I asked myself on reading this, but the text acknowledges (if reluctantly) that the carrier's revelations were voluntary.
The press release's text includes extravagant judgments to the effect that, for example, the documents "expose a business strategy of systematically underpaying claims," etc., and that those documents "reveal the company's 'Us versus Them' attitude toward its customers,'" but no specifics are cited. It goes on in high dudgeon to allege that "Allstate's 'good hands' are stealing from customers' pocketbooks."
A visit to Allstate's site naturally yields a diametrically opposite take on the event, with a press release headed "Allstate Acts to Dispel Inaccurate Portrayal of Claim Practices."
While the Allstate release begs many questions, it nevertheless makes a plausible case in sober language, in contrast to the exaggerated, propagandistic style of the Consumer Watchdog release.
It may be that the carrier fought court battles to keep the documents secret, as Consumer Watchdog claims. Or not. Without further investigation, one can only speculate, guided by the relative prima facie credibility of the two press releases. What is not a matter of speculation is that Allstate did release this mass of evidence for public perusal.
Whatever the ultimate rights and wrongs of the case, Allstate has not only made use of the preferred communication channel of anyone likely to care about these matters but has done so while releasing a staggering amount of internal documentation. That act will make a positive impression on those who will dig no further as it makes the material available for those who will dig and sets a precedent for greater corporate transparency at a time the public is clamoring for it.Allstate has not only made use of the preferred communication channel of anyone likely to care about these matters but has done so while releasing a staggering amount of internal documentation. That will make a positive impression on those who will dig no further, as it makes the material available for those who will dig and sets a precedent for greater corporate transparency at a time the public is clamoring for it.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio