After fielding a number of calls from members searching for advice, Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York State Inc. want to make it clear that the practice of requesting agents provide customer lists, or extensive profiles of agency books of business, is a significant breach of the agent/carrier relationship.

Members have been contacting PIA’s Industry Resource Center looking for advice on how to respond to carrier requests for unusually detailed information concerning their books of business. Many agents speculate that the rationale behind these requests is to circumvent insurance agents and sell policies direct to customers.

“It’s logical for an insurance company to want information regarding its own products,” says Diane Fowler, executive director of PIACT, PIANH, PIANJ and PIANY. “But details on the rest of the products offered by an agency, from other companies, are privileged information.”

Additionally, PIA received reports that some companies have gone a step further, asking for lists of customer e-mail addresses.

“Not only would this constitute a breach of client privacy, but also, it causes agents to wonder about the reasoning behind harvesting this contact information,” Fowler says. “Agents acquire policy information at their own expense to service accounts and renew coverage for their customers, with virtually all contracts between independent agents and companies declaring the agent as exclusive owner of this information. The idea that insurance companies might poach business from their most loyal salespeople is a frightening testament to the current difficult economic times.”

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