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Confusion, irregular practices emerge in ISO change over

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- Reports are surfacing that many Dougherty Countians may have been charged exorbitant insurance rates based on ISO data going back at least 15 years, fire officials say.

On Feb. 1, many residents who live in the unincorporated portions of Dougherty County were authorized to go from an ISO level 4 to and ISO level 2, Albany Fire Chief James Carswell said.

But since the county commission sent out letters to residents affected by the switch and publicity of the changeover has grown, people have started calling the fire station inquiring about the shift.

"We're seeing more and more people calling in neighborhoods that should have been at a level 4 going to a level two, but have in fact been charged at a level 9," Carswell said.

There is a significant dollar difference in the rates between level four and level nine.

Carswell estimates that a person whose insurance premiums are calculated using ISO, goes from a level 9 to a level 2, will save better than 70 percent.

Carswell said a representative of an insurance company recently called and congratulated him on the huge accomplishment of going from a level 9 to a level 2.

"That was great, and we appreciated the thanks, but their customers should've been paying a level 4 for the last 10 years," he said. "That's possibly thousands of dollars over that period of time."

While it may sound criminal, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine's office has said that the burden is on the consumer to ensure they aren't getting taken advantage of.

"If there isn't a law for this type of thing, there should be," Carswell said.

And there may be some people in the county who didn't receive notices

from the commission that would still be eligible for a level 2.

"We're finding more people who live within 1,000 feet of a hydrant and

are eligible that we didn't know before," Carswell said. "Bottom line is that if you live in the county you need to call your agent and check."