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New Allstate TV Commercial. Seriously?

Attorney Mike Bottaro riffs on Actor Dean Winter's misleading Allstate TV commercial.

Dean Winters used to be my favorite actor.  Loved him in Oz, Rescue Me, and even 30 Rock. All classic.  But since he has taken the dough to shill for the biggest and baddest auto insurance company in the world, Allstate?  Forget about it.  I will never view him in the same light again.

In the latest TV spot, Winters derides other insurance companies for poor customer service in answering their telephone.  He then proclaims that Allstate is “The only insurance company that guarantees that your claim experience won’t be mayhem.” The screen then shifts to a prominent “Claim Satisfaction Guarantee” graphic.

Seriously? Allstate is now “guaranteeing” that consumers will have a “satisfying” claim experience?  If you read about the history of Allstate’s claims handling practices – including the hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and bad faith verdicts that have been levied against this company – then you may agree that this “guarantee” is akin to a politician’s promise not to accept campaign contributions.  

The Rhode Island Bar Journal was kind enough to recently publish my review, as an RI personal injury lawyer and bad faith lawyer, of a Rutgers Law professor’s book detailing the tricks the insurance companies play to “delay, deny, and then defend” against consumers’ claims.

As detailed in this book, for the past 25 years, Allstate has been an industry leader in breaching insurance contracts and ignoring established insurance legal principles such as “good faith and fair dealing” with their customers.  The book includes a direct quote from the Consumer Federation of America to “avoid Allstate if at all possible.”  As a Rhode Island bad faith lawyer, my practice includes confronting insurance companies who fail to honor the insurance contract that consumers paid for.

And as to customer service? Consumers and their Rhode Island personal injury lawyers who deal with Allstate on a daily basis may disagree with Mr.Winter concerning Allstate’s telephone service.  If you call Allstate's 800 claims service number, you may be confronted with one of the most dizzying voice mail mazes ever set up to minimize the possibility of easily reaching a live human being.

Perhaps I shouldn’t blame Winters for his decision to sell out.  You cannot turn on the TV without sitting through the increasingly annoying genre of “funny” insurance commercials.  This is big business.  Each year, Americans spend $160 billion on auto insurance premiums.  And what a business to be in.  Big insurance is in a no-lose game – they have a constant market that grows with the population and that includes little substantive oversight.  That is, with good reason, every state in the country requires us to buy auto insurance.  And the only “watchdogs” in each state are the overworked, understaffed, and underpaid state insurance departments.  Have you heard of any major auto insurance company going under during this recession?  Me neither.  Dean Winters: Please stop misleading the public about insurance company “guarantees” and return to acting in more interesting roles.

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Jim February 23, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Obviously, Mr. Winters is playing a role, reading a script written by Madison Ave. Ad execs.. Just like 30 Rock, those ads are done with tongue in cheek, just a few seconds of attention grabbing. No harm no foul in my opinion. Personally a more disturbing tv commercial involves the geek in the Nationwide ads; there is nothing humorous about sitting in an upside down car singing the praises of Nationwide. BUT the best ads right now are the Direct TV ads, a real hoot.
Jim February 23, 2012 at 02:25 PM
How about all the ads of personal injury lawyers; those are a travesty of honesty and full disclosure
Mike Bottaro February 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Great point, Jim! Thank you for reading. I could not agree more in many cases.
coventry voter-Jay March 07, 2012 at 01:45 PM
In a world where nothing is certain . Allstate.. We guarantee a Happy Ending

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