Nearly one year after Allstate Insurance launched its $1 billion "Good Hands Network" Internet initiative, State Farm Insurance Co. has joined the growing number of carriers that are selling policies directly to consumers online.Next spring, the Bloomington, Ill.-based carrier will begin selling auto coverage to consumers in California and renters insurance in Illinois via its Web site. Customers will be able to apply for coverage and bind the policy online using a credit card. State Farm's Web site currently provides auto quotes and the ability to file a claim.

State Farm executives call the company's direct initiative a logical extension of the company's Internet strategy, not a reaction to market competition.

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