The Office of General Counsel issued the following opinion on January 7, 2008 representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
RE: Advertisements of Insurance Agents or Brokers
1. May an insurance agent or broker make reference to specific insurers in an advertisement, without also indicating the location of the insurers’ principal offices?
2. May an insurance agent or broker use only the logos of the respective insurers in an advertisement (provided that the agent or broker receives permission to do so), without indicating the full name and principal office location of the insurers?
1. No. N.Y. Ins. Law § 2122(b) (McKinney 2006) specifically requires that all advertisements that refer to an insurer also include the city, town or village of the insurer’s principal office.
2. No. Use of only the insurers’ logos in advertisements runs afoul of the requirement set forth in Insurance Law § 2122(b) to state the full name of the insurers, as well as the city, town or village of the insurers’ principal offices. The use of logos also may violate the Department’s regulations if the logos are misleading as to the true identity of the insurer.
The inquirer is an insurance agent licensed in New York and the inquirer’s agency is also licensed in New York. As the inquirer noted, the Insurance Law requires that any advertisement that mentions a specific product or rate also must provide the complete name and location of the principal office of the insurer. However, the inquirer seeks clarification from the Department as to whether the following proposed telephone book advertisement complies with the Insurance Law:
“Representing, Insurance Co. A; XY Insurance; AB Insurance Co.; Insurance Co. B; Insurance Co. C.”
The inquirer also questioned whether it was permissible to use the following statement: “Representing these fine companies and more…,” followed by the insurers’ logos, or if the Insurance Law permitted the use of only the insurers’ logos without indicating the insurers’ principal office locations, in order to minimize advertising costs.
Insurance Law § 2122(b) requires that any advertisement issued by an agent or broker that makes reference to an insurer must also set forth the complete name of the insurer, as well as the name of the city, town or village in which the insurer has its principal office. The provision reads as follows:
Every agent of any insurer and every insurance broker shall, in all advertisements, public announcements, signs, pamphlets, circulars and cards, which refer to an insurer, set forth therein the name in full of the insurer referred to and the name of the city, town or village in which it has its principal office in the United States.
Additionally, Part 215 of the New York Codes, Rules & Regulations (“NYCRR”) tit. 11 (Regulation 34) sets forth the rules governing advertisements of accident and health insurance. 11 NYCRR § 215.13(a) requires, among other things, that the name of the actual insurer be included in all advertisements, and prohibits the use of any service mark or slogan of the insurer that may be misleading or deceptive as to the true identity of the insurer. That provision states, in relevant part, as follows:
The name of the actual insurer and the form number or numbers advertised shall be identified and made clear in all of its advertisements. An advertisement shall not use a trade name, any insurance group designation, name of the parent company of the insurer, name of a particular division of the insurer, service mark, slogan, symbol or other device which without disclosing the name of the actual insurer would have the capacity and tendency to mislead or deceive as to the true identity of the insurer.
It is clear, therefore, that the use of the insurers’ names without indicating the location of their principal offices in an advertisement violates Insurance Law § 2122(b). The Insurance Law draws no distinction between particular types of advertisements, (such as an advertisement that might run in a telephone book). Likewise, the use of logos alone fails to comply with the Insurance Law. Such use also could violate Regulation 34, if the logos are misleading as to the true identity of the insurers.
For further information you may contact Senior Attorney Camielle A. Campbell at the New York City office.