Friday, May 2, 2014

Unlicensed jewelry service contract company makes things right with OIC

Zale Delaware Inc., a company connected to Zales Jewelers, Gordon Jewelers and Piercing Pagoda, and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner recently agreed that Zale would pay $300,000 fine and more than $290,000 in unpaid premium taxes for unauthorized sales of service contracts for jewelry repairs. Companies pay a 2 percent premium tax on all service contracts, which is deposited into the state’s general fund. All disciplinary fines are also deposited into the state’s general fund.

Zale sold more than 425,000 jewelry service contracts worth $14.5 million to Washington consumers from 1999-2013 without being licensed. Washington state law requires that all service contract providers be registered with the Insurance Commissioner; the law took effect in 1999 as a way to protect consumers. Zale self-reported to our office that it was selling the contracts without being licensed, and it agreed to suspend further sales until it could comply with state law.

Like insurance companies, companies that sell service contracts assume a certain level of risk and it’s our job to make sure they are able to provide consumers the service they paid for when they purchase the contract.

Noteworthy in this case is that the company approached our office in order to comply with state law. Often, we find out about unlicensed service contract sales from consumer complaints. It is unusual for a company to approach us in the interest of following the law. Zale agreed to pay the fine and the premium tax within 30 days.

Before you buy a service contract, you can make sure the company is licensed to sell contracts in Washington.