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Bristol West insurance charges what seem illegal $25 fees for not processing a credit card

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by callitawrap

callitawrap's picture
In My Life

Bristol West / Farmers Insurance charged me a late fee for car insurance after the company claimed "insufficient funds" on a credit card that has no limit. The company is treating or charging a card request like a returned check or bank debit even though it's not being charged, and there's no way to dispute the wrong fees.

I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a Bristol West representative and supervisor who both claimed there was nothing the company could do to waive the fee for what employees continued to refer to as "insufficient funds". When I clearly explained that this does not have to do with a financial institution or bank returning a request for payment and that the category Bristol West reps are using as a basis for the fee that never should have been charged, it fell on deaf ears. I told the employee that a company should not be charging for a processing error to the credit card over which a customer has no control, the representative told me "it happens all the time" with credit cards and that the company charges those customers the same twenty-five dollar fee. I mentioned that they must be making a fortune in fees that shouldn't be charged then, if they're really billing customers for their own company's lack of processing or follow-through on credit card transactions. I told the Bristol West reps that I believe the fee they charged me is illegal and never should have been charged. The company's response continued to be some reference to 'insufficient funds' even though a credit card has nothing to do with insufficient funds and in fact had unlimited charge/funds availability. While the credit card has no record of the charge ever being submitted, I pointed out to Bristol West that it's outlandish to charge a fee because a card can also simply place a security hold which would mean verification is needed but that, again, it's not a charge being declined. The auto insurance company refuses to fix its own error of $25 I had to pay in order for the policy to remain current.

One of the craziest parts is that the company charging a fee should be responsible for having some type of proof as to how or why that fee is being charged. Bristol West couldn't even give an entirely straight answer other than the above but also tried to tell me that I, as the customer, was responsible for providing proof to the opposite. The insurance rep told me that I must provide proof from the credit card that the charge wasn't declined or insufficient and that's the only way the company would possibly consider looking at it. Having already spoken to the card, I knew it was a game because the credit card had no record of a submission. If there's no record of a request/submission from the company, there's nothing to provide to Bristol West. I told the employee that if they are charging me, then they should be providing the customer proof of what they're claiming as a basis for the fee - not the other way around. No company operates like that. If that was the case then any company could charge any fee at any time, without any basis, which is apparently what Bristol West seems to be doing.

Basically Bristol West (now part of Farmers Insurance as of a few years ago) is treating a credit card request for payment in the same category of bank withdrawal, which is not the same. A credit card can choose to place a security hold and need verification from its customer or the company, etc, and UNLIKE A BANK does NOT CHARGE THE MERCHANT for a transaction not being completed. Bristol West seems to think it's found a loophole in scraping fees from customers by calling an incomplete credit card transaction "insufficient funds". As I explained to the employees, insufficient funds are an absolute impossibility for a credit card that has no charge limit. In addition, the insurance company never tried contacting the credit card or trying for a second authorization in order to complete the transaction that had been authorized.

The Bristol West supervisor I talked to basically laughed. The view seems to be that customers can't do anything, the company refuses to provide any method for customers to be able to email the company in order to dispute false charges (it seems they want nothing in writing back and forth), and the insurance company basically FORCES customers to pay the fee that shouldn't be charged or lose the policy. The only way to make the policy active was to pay what's right on par with a blackmailed fee. A customer cannot pay everything but the fee, even for an inquiry by management. Bristol West simply charges whatever fee it wants and provides no method for review. This is very wrong. Someone also needs to investigate the fees that Bristol West is accruing from customers and which of those fees has been related to simple credit card requests that the company didn't follow through with. The company is charging the same amount, for a process that costs them zero, as it charges for a returned check or bank debit. This feels like a complete scam and customer service is totally absent, a joke. The Bristol West insurance site doesn't even have a contact us link or any way to email customer service representatives at all. Farmers Insurance should be absolutely ashamed to own this company and needs to drastically improve how things are run. Billing fees that shouldn't be billed and not allowing customers to contact the company or dispute those fees in any way, not only doesn't seem ethical but doesn't seem legal either.


Bristol West Insurance Group
5701 Stirling Road
Davie, FL 33314
United States
Phone: (954) 316-5200
26° 2' 50.1972" N, 80° 13' 14.6712" W
Farmers Insurance Group Corporate Office
4750 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States
Phone: (323)932-3200
34° 3' 43.4916" N, 118° 19' 59.4552" W
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Average: 5 (1 vote)


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January 5, 2013 by john-curtter, 11 years 27 weeks ago

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November 5, 2013 by bernardbert (not verified), 10 years 36 weeks ago

bernardbert's picture

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I have had the exact same

September 10, 2014 by loserexists (not verified), 9 years 44 weeks ago

loserexists's picture

I have had the exact same issue with Bristol West. The NSF fee sounds like a total scam. I've been trying to setup EFT since April (it's September now) after my card information changed and every time they come back with this error. And every single time the NSF fee was charged illegally. The credit card company does not see any record of a declined transaction - no surprise because there shouldn't have been any declined transactions. They can't even confirm the credit card information they have on file. Am I supposed to take them on their word? I've had the fee waived now. But was told that if it happens again they won't be able to waive the fee - as if they are doing me a favor by waiving a fee which was charged illegally to begin with. Guess who'll be shopping for insurance. This company needs to be sued.

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kalkigela's picture

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ArianaRebecca7's picture

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