The San Juan Daily Star
Scam at some auto inspection centers said enabled by paper forms
By John McPhaul
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Essential Services and Consumer Affairs held a public hearing Wednesday to address Senate Resolution 361, which seeks to investigate an alleged scam perpetrated by some automobile inspection centers that supposedly use a subterfuge in the process of issuing inspection stickers, which are known locally as “marbetes,” to defraud motorists.
According to the reports, one of the scams consists of the inspection centers in question placing blank pieces of paper between the original license page and the carbon paper used in the license to block out the information in the license and then pocket the premium paid by the motorist.
“For years, the existence of illicit practices between insurers and authorized entities has been alleged, violating the right of consumers to the free selection of the insurer of their preference,” said Sen. Gretchen M. Hau, chairwoman of the committee.
“For this reason and after passing Senate Resolution 361, this committee requested comments from the insurance commissioner and the Insurance Companies Association of Puerto Rico (ACODESE by its Spanish acronym), and as part of the data they shared with us, questions arise, particularly those issues that affect the free selection of the insurance of [drivers’] preference.”
The measure aims to investigate compliance by authorized entities and participating insurance companies with Law 253-1995, as amended, known as the “Law on Compulsory Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance,” and the applicable regulations regarding the selection of compulsory liability insurance (SRO by its Spanish initials), using the selection form adopted by Law 245-2014, in order to guarantee the will and the right of free choice of any consumer insured under the coverage of the SRO.
The chairwoman stressed that the committee has information on some inspection centers in which a single insurer manages to get 90 percent of all consumers to choose it for compulsory insurance, which, she said, constitutes a “suspicious fact.”
In response to that comment, ACODESE legal adviser Jessica Forti Díaz said the company they select the most is Multinational, but in the inspection centers they do not send the premium. She added that insurers suggest a monetary amount to the inspection centers so that, at the time of the selection of the insurer of consumer preference, they change it and mark their company.
Forti Díaz stated that the insured learns of the change of insurer when he has an accident with the motor vehicle, because when communicating with the insurer that he understands he selected, they inform him that he is not under their coverage.
In her presentation, the ACODESE official suggested that when the client selects the SRO “it be done electronically and not through a paper form as is currently done.”
“This is so that the form cannot be altered in authorized entities and inspection centers,” Forti Díaz said, adding the possibility of the SRO selection being carried out through the vehicle registration application at the Driver Services Center (CESCO) so that the selection is reflected automatically.
“Law 253 of 1995 establishes that the form has to convert from paper to the digital method, but does not establish the date,” Hau said. “The legislative path is, what we must have is how we must execute and establish a date.”