An Open Letter to 21st Century Insurance

Note: this page was attacked and defaced by a “reputation service.” This is restored from a version saved by The Internet Archive, so not all of the links work correctly.

Sigh. I’d been a happy customer of 21st Century Insurance (now apparently known as AIG Direct) for close to two decades, since back when they were “20th Century Insurance.” Lately, though, they’ve gone down the tubes. I’ve referred friends to Twenty-First Century who have recently reported that their customer service has become simply awful. Why do companies that spend time and money building up a reputation for good customer relations to suddenly decide to go bad? To make a quick buck, I guess.

Hi! I’ve been a customer of yours for years and years. Late this afternoon (11September2008) I had the rude shock of receiving a notice that my policy had been cancelled as of 03September2008. But that was just the beginning of my horror story:

I immediately called to find out what was going on. I was subjected to a rude voice recognition system that failed to offer useful options and refused anything other than forcing me to chose from inapplicable choices.

I was subjected to two advertisements before my call was connected. From all appearances these weren’t ads being pushed while I was on hold, but ads I was being forced to listen to before my call would even be processed.

Then I was told that, due to a change in vehicles, I had a $59 charge on my account. I have never received a bill, a late notice, or a cancellation notice. All I received was the notice, today, that my policy had been cancelled eight days ago.

Then your representative, Karen, told me that you had a new procedure in force and that the policy could not be reinstated because I had had a previous reinstatement in October 2007. She said that this was a new policy in force since May, though she admitted that customers had not been notified of this new procedure.

What’s changed? The 21st Century I’ve done business with for so long would never subject their customers to obnoxious advertisements when they were trying to contact customer service. They would never have cancelled a policy without notice to the policyholder, thus violating several laws. Of course, “Karen” insisted that the bill and a cancellation notice were sent and not returned by the post office. So the assumption, I guess, is that a customer who has paid you over ten thousand dollars in premiums (and received virtually nothing in return) voluntarily allowed his policy to lapse over a $59 charge? Seriously? Would you ever consider telephoning or emailing such a customer, just as a courtesy in case there was a problem with the mail? You don’t seem to have any problem finding my email address when you want to send spam!

I suppose, in the final analysis, you are doing me a great favor by refusing to reinstate the policy. I am an excellent customer who has been with you well over a decade and has never had a citation or accident. If this is how you treat your desirable customers over a $59 charge, how do you act when asked to pay a significant claim? Not well, I’d wager.

For your reference a copy of this letter is available at:

Google probably won’t index it for a couple of days yet.

Thanks for many years of great service; no thanks for a final year or two of uncaring abuse.


Ron Risley

I’ll let you know of any action they take on my complaint. In the mean time, I will be shopping around for an insurance company who doesn’t dump on their prime customers.

If you’re one of the people whom I have referred to 21st over the years, my apologies, and I suggest you start doing some shopping, too.

— Ron – 12 Sep 2008

Twenty-First Century replies

Well, they’re quick (to do nothing). Here’s their unexpurgated reply:

Dear Ron Risley,Thank you for your email. I apologize for any inconvenience you may have been caused. We have had new guidelines set in place as far as reinstatements go. Any policy which is cancelled mid term can not be reinstated if there has been a lapse in the last 24 months. We did not issue any change of notice to our guidelines to our customers as we are not required. Any change in the guidelines or procedures is an internal function and not one we notify all customers about. I can understand your frustration in terms of you stating that you never received any notice from us or email. you possibly did not receive an email as your email address you have sent from is not the email address we have on file. In regards to your mail, I also do not show any mail returned to us from your local post office. Unfortunately we are now having to implement or more strict reinstatement policy with our customers. I apologize for any inconvenient.

If additional information is needed, please feel free to contact us.

Thank you, Steven Correa * Customer Care (800) 443-3100

They’re “sorry,” but they’re not going to do anything because “we are not required.” He seems to think they might have sent an email, but they didn’t. Their spam reaches me, and my email address on file with them is valid (it’s just different from the one I used this time), so that’s a lie, which destroys any credibility they might have had with their insistence that their mailroom is 100% infallible. They are “having to implement or [sic] more strict” policies. Presumably someone double-dog dared them? And they cannot be flexible even with long-time customers with perfect driving records? Even when they might have caused the problem in the first place?

Be warned. 21st Century Insurance will take care of their customers only when they’re “required” to. They will lie to you. They will change the conditions of your policy without notice. And decades of paying premiums and being a ticket- and accident-free driver won’t stop them from canceling your policy.

Also consider this: the “inconvenience” he apologizes for might have included total financial ruin, had I been involved in a motor vehicle collision between the time that the canceled the policy and when they took the time to actually notify me.

— Ron – 12 Sep 2008

I’m Insured; I Saved Money

The next morning I called the agency that insures my home. In marked contrast to my experience with Twenty First Century, Stephen Alberts at Scott Alberts Insurance (916-961-0553 x 209) quickly and efficiently got me a new policy. For $500/year less than Twentyfirst Century! That’s right — about half what I was paying to a company that claims to have competitive rates provided abysmal service. Thanks, Stephen!

Update: Other Stories

Since posting my page, I’ve heard from a lot of people. Here are a couple of stories (with details edited out to protect the innocent victims of this predatory company):

My [teenage] son had an accident, so we’re stuck with 21st Century for another year. Then we’ll switch as soon as we can. They’re horrible.

and another…

[Many] years ago, I was a happy Century 21 customer. The problems began when they kept sending cancellation notices to me, even though I had cancelled checks to prove I had paid my premiums. They promised that if I allowed them to debit my checking account monthly, this problem would be taken care of. After the 3rd time they took out my payment twice in a month — which was refunded promptly in 4-6 weeks, I went back to the monthly billing cycle. Oh, but wait, it gets better. Apparantly, they didn’t tell me that to go back to paper would cost more per month and since they didn’t show the new amount on the bill, we were behind on our premiums, so they cancelled the policy. When did I recieve that information? When I called to report that we had an accident in the [vehicle] that was less than a year old!Now, thankfully… the other driver [was at fault and] had insurance, but Century 21 made no bones about letting the other insurance company know were were uninsured, and the CHP, too.

So along with the accident report showing we were not at fault in the accident, we received a citation for lack of insurance.

Armed with these and other stories, I’m making a report to the California Insurance Commissioner.

Update: The Wages of Sin

AIG, the parent company of 21st Century, is milking more than just its customers. They’re losing money by the bucketful (could it be that treating your customers like dirt isn’t a profitable strategy?) and now are asking taxpayers to save their butts.

AIG Scrambles to Raise Cash, Talks to Fed —

Guess they weren’t satisfied with screwing over their customers — they want to reach into the pockets of the general public as well!

I’m going to see about setting up a link to make it easy for you to send your own “No Bailout for the Thieves at AIG and 21st Century” email to the Federal Reserve.

Hey! They Owe Me Money!

It just occurred to me that, since they cancelled my policy, 21st Century Insurance owes me a refund, something they seem to have neglected. I will be contacting them for a refund.

Complaint Filed with Insurance Commissioner

I have filed a complaint with the California Insurance Commissioner. I will report any developments with the case.

Too Late!

Sigh. I had intended to post a link to oppose a government bailout of AIG, but our government acted with record speed to spend our money before I could protest.

If you made incompetent business decisions, willfully violated laws, and treated your best customers like trash, you’d lose your job, right? Too bad you’re not AIG. You and I, American taxpayers, just rewarded AIG’s incompetent management and illegal business practices with an $85 BILLION dollar bailout. That’s right: every woman, man, and child in the US just donated over $400 apiece to pay the salaries and lavish benefits of the incompetent thieves at AIG.

Next time you mess up your budget and can’t pay your bills, just tell the Federal Reserve you’re having a “liquidity crisis,” perhaps they’ll help you out, too. Of course, honest hard-working folks need not apply.

Another warning if you’re still doing business with AIG: will they have the money to pay a claim should you need them? Or will they have a “liquidity crisis” just when you want to collect on the policy you’ve been paying through the nose for all these years?

— Ron – 17 Sep 2008

Insult to Injury

I pointed out to the folks at 21st Century that they owed me some money. My premium was about $100/month (a figure I now know to be quite high). I paid for six months, and they canceled the policy after five. Easy math — they owe me about $100. Even if you subtract the $59 they claim I owe them, but which they never billed for, they still owe me about $41. Yesterday I received a check from them, without explanation, for ONE DOLLAR. Doubtless they’ll claim there were some other charges that they made but never billed for. frown

Found by Google

Well, the US Government continues to reward corruption and greed. Meanwhile, Google has found this page, indexing it prominently under the search terms “21st Century Insurance” and “horror story.”

No reply whatsoever from my last several emails to 21st Century. I have heard from the California Insurance Commissioner’s office. They’re asking for collateral information before launching an investigation.

Deleted by 21st Century

(28March2018) Since I originally posted my complaint, the world was plunged into the Great Recession, triggered in part by the gross criminal activity of AIG, the parent company to 21st Century. They also hired a reputation service that registered on this site under false pretenses and deleted the post. It didn’t bother me too much at the time, but as I’m moving my blog to WordPress I decided to resurrect the post from the Internet Archive.