58-63-15. Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices defined.

The following are hereby defined as unfair methods of competition and unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance:

(1) Misrepresentations and False Advertising of Policy Contracts. - Making, issuing, circulating, or causing to be made, issued or circulated, any estimate, illustration, circular or statement misrepresenting the terms of any policy issued or to be issued or the benefits or advantages promised thereby or the dividends or share of the surplus to be received thereon, or making any false or misleading statement as to the dividends or share or surplus previously paid on similar policies, or making any misleading representation or any misrepresentation as to the financial condition of any insurer, or as to the legal reserve system upon which any life insurer operates, or using any name or title of any policy or class of policies misrepresenting the true nature thereof, or making any misrepresentation to any policyholder insured in any company for the purpose of inducing or tending to induce such policyholder to lapse, forfeit, or surrender his insurance.

(2) False Information and Advertising Generally. - Making, publishing, disseminating, circulating, or placing before the public, or causing, directly or indirectly, to be made, published, disseminated, circulated, or placed before the public, in a newspaper, magazine or other publication, or in the form of a notice, circular, pamphlet, letter or poster, or over any radio station, or in any other way, an advertisement, announcement or statement containing any assertion, representation or statement with respect to the business of insurance or with respect to any person in the conduct of his insurance business, which is untrue, deceptive or misleading.

(3) Defamation. - Making, publishing, disseminating, or circulating, directly or indirectly, or aiding, abetting or encouraging the making, publishing, disseminating or circulating of any oral or written statement or any pamphlet, circular, article or literature which is false, or maliciously critical of or derogatory to the financial condition of an insurer, and which is calculated to injure any person engaged in the business of insurance.

(4) Boycott, Coercion and Intimidation. - Entering into any agreement to commit, or by any concerted action committing, any act of boycott, coercion or intimidation resulting in or tending to result in unreasonable restraint of, or monopoly in, the business of insurance.

(5) False Financial Statements. - Filing with any supervisory or other public official, or making, publishing, disseminating, circulating or delivering to any person, or placing before the public, or causing directly or indirectly, to be made, published, disseminated, circulated, delivered to any person, or placed before the public, any false statement of financial condition of an insurer with intent to deceive.

Making any false entry in any book, report or statement of any insurer with intent to deceive any agent or examiner lawfully appointed to examine into its condition or into any of its affairs, or any public official to whom such insurer is required by law to report, or who has authority by law to examine into its condition or into any of its affairs, or, with like intent, willfully omitting to make a true entry of any material fact pertaining to the business of such insurer in any book, report or statement of such insurer.

(6) Stock Operations and Insurance Company Advisory Board Contracts. - Issuing or delivering or permitting agents, officers, or employees to issue or deliver, agency company stock or other capital stock, or benefit certificates or shares in any common-law corporation, or securities or any special or any insurance company advisory board contracts or other contracts of any kind promising returns and profit as an inducement to insurance.

(7) Unfair Discrimination.

a. Making or permitting any unfair discrimination between individuals of the same class and equal expectation of life in the rates charged for any contract of life insurance or of life annuity or in the dividends or other benefits payable thereon, or in any other of the terms and conditions of such contract.

b. Making or permitting any unfair discrimination between individuals of the same class and of essentially the same hazard in the amount of premium, policy fees, or rates charged for any policy or contract of accident or health insurance or in the benefits payable thereunder, or in any of the terms or conditions of such contract, or in any other manner whatever.

c. Making or permitting any unfair discrimination between or among individuals or risks of the same class and of essentially the same hazard by refusing to issue, refusing to renew, cancelling, or limiting the amount of insurance coverage on a property or casualty risk because of the geographic location of the risk, unless:

1. The refusal or limitation is for the purpose of preserving the solvency of the insurer and is not a mere pretext for unfair discrimination, or

2. The refusal, cancellation, or limitation is required by law.

d. Making or permitting any unfair discrimination between or among individuals or risks of the same class and of essentially the same hazard by refusing to issue, refusing to renew, cancelling, or limiting the amount of insurance coverage on a residential property risk, or the personal property contained therein, because of the age of the residential property, unless:

1. The refusal or limitation is for the purpose of preserving the solvency of the insurer and is not a mere pretext for unfair discrimination, or

2. The refusal, cancellation, or limitation is required by law.

(8) Rebates.

a. Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, knowingly permitting or offering to make or making any contract of life insurance, life annuity or accident and health insurance, or agreement as to such contract other than as plainly expressed in the contract issued thereon, or paying or allowing, or giving or offering to pay, allow, or give, directly or indirectly, as inducement to such insurance, or annuity, any rebate of premiums payable on the contract, or any special favor or advantage in the dividends or other benefits thereon, or any valuable consideration or inducement whatever not specified in the contract; or giving, or selling, or purchasing or offering to give, sell, or purchase as inducement to such insurance or annuity or in connection therewith, any stocks, bonds, or other securities of any insurance company or other corporation, association, or partnership, or any dividends or profits accrued thereon, or anything of value whatsoever not specified in the contract.

b. Nothing in subdivision (7) or paragraph a of subdivision (8) of this section shall be construed as including within the definition of discrimination or rebates any of the following practices:

1. In the case of any contract of life insurance or life annuity, paying bonuses to policyholders or otherwise abating their premiums in whole or in part out of surplus accumulated from nonparticipating insurance, provided, that any such bonuses or abatement of premiums shall be fair and equitable to policyholders and for the best interests of the company and its policyholders;

2. In the case of life insurance policies issued on the industrial debit plan, making allowance to policyholders who have continuously for a specified period made premium payments directly to an office of the insurer in an amount which fairly represents the saving in collection expense;

3. Readjustment of the rate of premium for a group insurance policy based on the loss or expense experienced thereunder, at the end of the first or any subsequent policy year of insurance thereunder, which may be made retroactive only for such policy year.

c. No insurer or employee thereof, and no broker or agent shall pay, allow, or give, or offer to pay, allow, or give, directly or indirectly, as an inducement to insurance, or after insurance has been effected, any rebate, discount, abatement, credit or reduction of the premium named in a policy of insurance, or any special favor or advantage in the dividends or other benefits to accrue thereon, or any valuable consideration or inducement whatever, not specified in the policy of insurance. Nothing herein contained shall be construed as prohibiting the payment of commissions or other compensation to regularly appointed and licensed agents and to brokers duly licensed by this State; nor as prohibiting any participating insurer from distributing to its policyholders dividends, savings or the unused or unabsorbed portion of premiums and premium deposits.

(9) Advertising of Health, Accident or Hospitalization Insurance. - In all advertising of policies, certificates or service plans of health, accident or hospitalization insurance, except those providing group coverage, where details of benefits provided by a particular policy, certificate or plan are set forth in any advertising material, such advertising material shall contain reference to the major exceptions or major clauses limiting or voiding liability contained in the policy, certificate or plan so advertised. The references to such exceptions or clauses shall be printed in a type no smaller than that used to set forth the benefits of the policy, certificate or plan. In all advertising of such policies, certificates or plans which contain a cancellation provision or a provision that the policies, certificates or plans may be renewed at the option of the company or medical service corporation only, such advertising material shall contain clear and definite reference to the fact that the policies, certificates or plans are cancellable or that the same may be renewed at the option of the company only.

In advertising, sale, or solicitation for sale of any insurance policy represented or advertised to afford coverages and benefits supplemental to or in addition to Medicare coverage, all such advertising materials, except for advertisements which have as their objective the creation of a desire to inquire further about an insurance product and do nothing more than generally describe the product and invite inquiries for costs and further details of the coverage, including limitations, exclusions, reductions or limitations and terms under which the policy may be continued in force, in whatever medium, and all solicitation and presentations for the sale of such policies, shall contain specific references to major exclusions or major exceptions that may result in voiding liability or in a reduction of benefits below those primarily advertised. When such policies contain a coordination of benefits clause whereby benefits are limited by or prorated with other outstanding coverages, such provision shall be called to the attention of the prospective purchaser by conspicuously printed type no smaller than 10 point type. When such policies are advertised to provide coverage above Medicare payments, but contain provisions limiting benefits to those approved for payment by Medicare under Part B, such limitation in benefits shall be called to the attention of the prospective purchaser regardless of the advertising medium; and when policies containing such provisions are delivered, there shall be incorporated therein the language or affixed thereto a sticker in conspicuously printed type no smaller than 10 point type stating: CAUTION: POLICY BENEFITS ARE LIMITED TO THOSE APPROVED BY MEDICARE FOR PAYMENT. Any person engaged in the solicitation or sale of such supplemental Medicare policies in this State shall, as a part of the application, determine and list on the application all policies of Medicare supplement or other health insurance currently in force that cover the prospective insured. In compiling such information, the person is entitled to rely upon information furnished by the prospective purchaser or insured.

(10) Soliciting, etc., Unauthorized Insurance Contracts in Other States. - Soliciting, advertising or entering into insurance contracts in foreign states and any other jurisdiction in which such domestic insurer is not licensed in accordance with the laws of such state or jurisdiction, except as provided in G.S. 58-14-5.

(11) Unfair Claim Settlement Practices. - Committing or performing with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice of any of the following: Provided, however, that no violation of this subsection shall of itself create any cause of action in favor of any person other than the Commissioner:

a. Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions relating to coverages at issue;

b. Failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims arising under insurance policies;

c. Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of claims arising under insurance policies;

d. Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation based upon all available information;

e. Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after proof-of-loss statements have been completed;

f. Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear;

g. Compelling [the] insured to institute litigation to recover amounts due under an insurance policy by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in actions brought by such insured;

h. Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable man would have believed he was entitled;

i. Attempting to settle claims on the basis of an application which was altered without notice to, or knowledge or consent of, the insured;

j. Making claims payments to insureds or beneficiaries not accompanied by [a] statement setting forth the coverage under which the payments are being made;

k. Making known to insureds or claimants a policy of appealing from arbitration awards in favor of insureds or claimants for the purpose of compelling them to accept settlements or compromises less than the amount awarded in arbitration;

l. Delaying the investigation or payment of claims by requiring an insured claimant, or the physician, of [or] either, to submit a preliminary claim report and then requiring the subsequent submission of formal proof-of-loss forms, both of which submissions contain substantially the same information;

m. Failing to promptly settle claims where liability has become reasonably clear, under one portion of the insurance policy coverage in order to influence settlements under other portions of the insurance policy coverage; and

n. Failing to promptly provide a reasonable explanation of the basis in the insurance policy in relation to the facts or applicable law for denial of a claim or for the offer of a compromise settlement.

(12) Misuse of Borrowers' Confidential Information. - Soliciting, accepting, or using any information from a lender concerning policies of insurance held by such lender as a mortgagee of real property, except from a lender who is an insurer where the loan has been made by or sold or held for sale to such insurer. Provided, however, this subdivision shall not apply to the use of such information by a lender for the solicitation of life or accident and health insurance.

(13) Overinsurance in Credit or Loan Transactions. - In connection with a loan or extension of credit secured by real or personal property or both, requiring the applicant to procure property and casualty insurance against any one risk which results in coverage which exceeds the replacement value of the secured property at the time of the loan or extension of credit. In connection with a secured or unsecured loan or extension of credit, requiring the applicant to procure life or health insurance against any one risk which exceeds the amount of the loan. In connection with a loan secured by both real and personal property, requiring credit property insurance, as defined in G.S. 58-57-90, on the personal property. For the purposes of this subsection "amount of loan" shall be deemed to be the amount of principal and accrued interest to be paid by the debtor including other allowable charges. (1949, c. 1112; 1955, c. 850, s. 3; 1967, c. 935, s. 2; 1975, c. 668; 1983, c. 831; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 1027, ss. 18, 20; 1987, c. 787, ss. 1, 3.)