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BofA customer says she never authorized insurance fee

A Rancho Palos Verdes resident found she'd been charged $20 a month for about two years for accidental death coverage by a Bank of America affiliate. The bank alleges she authorized the coverage by phone.

June 24, 2011|David Lazarus

She said something may have arrived in the mail about the insurance plan, but neither she nor her sister, who assists with most financial matters, saw a notice requiring an opt-out within 30 days.

There are a number of issues that arise here. First, it's remarkable that a product as sophisticated as accidental death insurance can be sold on the basis of a telephone handshake.

Moreover, because a bank has a marketing relationship with an insurer, payments can be automatically withdrawn from one's checking account without your having to provide an account number, thus making it much easier for people to end up paying for something they never intended to buy.

Finally, no signature is apparently required to seal the deal. If you don't opt out from the insurance coverage, the default setting is that you must want it. That's neither a fair nor a realistic standard for a business transaction.

At the very least, BofA should do the stand-up thing for a customer and refund Rao's money. Judging from the volume of complaints online about Intersections Insurance Services, the bank can hardly be in the dark about its former partner's business practices.

Beyond that, Rao and all other consumers shouldn't hesitate to assert their rights. The Federal Trade Commission requires telemarketers to disclose clearly all costs and conditions prior to a sale. They also must disclose whether they have a no-refund policy.

It's also wise to delve into the privacy policy of any company you do business with. By law, companies are required to let you say "no thanks" to unwanted marketing pitches, including a company's affiliates. But make sure to read the fine print carefully.

Rao insists she never intended to sign up for accidental death insurance. All things considered, BofA should take her word for it.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5. Send your tips or feedback to

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