Last week, the New Hampshire Insurance Department released a reminder that insurance companies in the state could not decline to offer coverage for private passenger vehicles based on manufacturer. The NHID specifically cited two manufacturers as examples of carriers needing to abide by New Hampshire’s “Take-All-Comers” Rule. It strongly suggested that the press release was in response to multiple carriers beginning to blacklist vehicles by those two manufacturers because of a TikTok challenge that revealed a security flaw that makes them at higher risk of robbery.
The issue has to do with the lack of an engine immobilizer in cars made by the two manufacturers with the same parent company. An engine immobilizer offers a cheap way to protect vehicles from being hotwired and stolen, making it common in almost all vehicles sold in the last 20 years. The engine immobilizer prevents the vehicle from starting without using the correct key, resulting in 96% of auto manufacturers including them in vehicles. Only 26% of vehicles by the two manufacturers under scrutiny include the safety feature, resulting in higher rates of vehicle theft.
The security problem has exploded in recent months thanks to TikTok, where potential thieves have made videos showing how to steal one of these vehicles with a screwdriver and USB cord. Some such groups have even named themselves and post videos of their real-life Grand Theft Auto adventures. It has become a substantive enough problem that police departments across the country have been warning the public to take extra security measures, such as steering wheel locks if they own an at-risk vehicle. TikTok has emphasized that users should not promote content that encourages vandalism or damage to property, which also is the general recommended advice of lawyers.
Now the problem has reached the level for insurance carriers to respond by blacklisting the at-risk vehicles. The question when these missives get sent out is naturally whether a carrier can just blacklist vehicles made by a specific manufacturer? The NHID has made clear that carriers cannot do this.
Clare Irvine, Esq.
Clare Irvine, Esq., graduated from Fordham University School of Law and Arizona State University.