Ad Watch: Prop. 33 ad misleads on discounts, spokesperson

10/16/2012 12:00 AM

10/16/2012 7:52 AM

Backers of Proposition 33 have run a series of TV ads depicting motorists who support the initiative, which would alter the way auto insurance premiums are regulated in California. Here is a text of one of the ads, and an analysis by Bee staff writer Dale Kasler.

On-screen narrator: I'm Adriana, I have car insurance and I'm proud of doing the right thing. In this economy money is tight, but Proposition 33 will save me and California drivers money every month.

It will allow us to shop our discounts for being responsible and maintaining car insurance to competing insurance carriers lowering our rates. Shouldn't car insurance companies compete harder for our business?

Proposition 33 has added protections to help Californians attain insurance and stay insured at a lower cost. Vote yes on Prop 33.

Analysis: The ad tells only part of the story, and features a testimonial from a motorist without disclosing she works for Proposition 33's campaign team.

State law lets auto insurers offer "persistency" discounts to current customers who have maintained uninterrupted coverage. Proposition 33 would let insurers offer similar discounts to new customers who have maintained continuous coverage with other insurers.

What the ad doesn't mention is the prospect that other motorists – those who haven't maintained continuous coverage – could get socked with higher rates. That's because of the "zero-sum" principle established by the Department of Insurance, which says discounts offered to one group must be offset by rate hikes to the others.

The initiative "will allow insurance companies to increase cost of insurance to drivers who have not maintained continuous coverage," according to the attorney general's official ballot summary.

What's more, initiative opponent Consumer Watchdog filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission over two Yes on 33 television ads, including this one. Consumer Watchdog says the ads violate state election law by failing to disclose that Adriana Calderon, who's featured in this ad, and Brandi King, featured in the other ad, are paid employees of Marketplace Communications, the Sacramento public relations firm that's working on the Yes on 33 campaign.

Marketplace acknowledges the women work for the firm but says "they volunteered their stories in the course of working on the effort to pass Proposition 33." The FPPC decided not to investigate.

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