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Minnesota Legislature

Insurance for portable electronics

Published (4/8/2010)
By Nick Busse
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Jeff Peterson, left, Commerce Department director of government relations, and Peter Thrane, center, representing Asurion, testify before the House Energy Finance and Policy Division April 7 in support of a bill that would regulate portable electronics insurance. Rep. Leon Lillie, right, sponsors the bill. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)A House division laid over a bill that would regulate portable electronics insurance because of concerns it might harm mom-and-pop retailers.

Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul) sponsors HF3251 that would cover insurance policies for cell phones, laptops and other portable electronics devices. The bill includes a number of protections for consumers who buy the policies.

Under the bill’s provisions, retailers who sell portable electronics insurance would be required to obtain licensure from the Commerce Department, and pay a fee. Lillie said the bill is only meant to apply to large companies that can easily absorb the cost; however, some lawmakers are concerned it would apply to small retailers as well.

Rep. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) suggested small retailers should be exempted from the fee or be required to pay a smaller amount. Lillie responded that it is not his intention for the bill to apply to “one-store operations,” and said he will consider modifying the bill’s language to exclude such businesses.

The House Energy Finance and Policy Division laid the bill over April 7, and Chairman Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson) plans to bring it up for consideration again sometime next week.

The bill is intended to address ambiguities in the state’s insurance laws. Lillie said the goal is to clarify that those who sell electronics insurance don’t have to act as full-fledged insurance companies.

Peter Thrane, a lobbyist representing the insurance company Asurion, said the law is currently unclear as to whether retailers can even sell insurance on portable devices. He said the bill is supported by retailers and cell phone providers as well as the insurance industry.

The bill would require retailers to provide consumers with a comprehensive disclosure about the insurance policy. It would also require employees selling the insurance product to be trained in the terms and conditions of the insurance coverage.

A companion, SF2962, has been incorporated into SF2510, which awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) is the sponsor.

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