Allstate to return $600 million in auto premiums to customers as pandemic cuts driving

FILE PHOTO: A car moves along an empty highway during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Seattle, Washington, U.S. March 30, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

By Suzanne Barlyn

(Reuters) – U.S. insurer Allstate Corp  said on Monday that it would return more than $600 million in auto insurance premiums to customers as many Americans stay home and drive less due to “shelter-in-place” orders to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Most customers will receive a “payback” of 15% of their monthly premium in April and May, the company said.

A smaller U.S. auto insurer, American Family Insurance in Madison, Wisconsin, also said on Monday that it would return a total of $200 million to auto insurance customers beginning in mid-April. Customers will receive $50 per vehicle covered by their policies, the company said.

“There are very few silver linings out there, but auto insurance companies are definitely one of them,” said Piper Sandler analyst Paul Newsome about coronavirus.

Fewer accidents generally lead to a lower claim frequency and Newsome expects insurance companies with large auto portfolios, such as Progressive Corp <PGR.N>, Travelers Companies Inc <TRV.N> and Allstate, to post good first quarter results.

The payments show how coronavirus could provide a silver lining for at least one industry – auto insurance companies – as more drivers stay off the roads.

Allstate’s payback, which will apply to 18 million policies issued by Allstate and its Esurance and Encompass units, follows a data analysis by the insurer of 23 million cars that showed driving mileage being down between 35% and 50% in most states, Allstate Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson said during a call with reporters on Monday.

The analysis, based partly on data that Allstate collects from tracking products that some customers agree to use in exchange for discounts, and other sources,

Allstate’s data showed no difference between states that had “shelter in place” orders in effect and those that did not, Wilson said.

Still, some people who are still on the roads are driving faster on what are now less densely traveled roads, which could lead to more serious accidents, Wilson said.

Next Insurance, a commercial insurer in Palo Alto, California that covers small businesses also on Monday said that it would discount April commercial auto premiums by 25% because “stay at home” orders have reduced the insurers’ risks.

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Additional reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Marguerita Choy)

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