New York Dials Up New Insurance Options For Phones
ALBANY — Insurance coverage for cells phones can be expensive, but large numbers of consumers buy the plans because the cost of replacing or repairing a device can be a budget buster.
For years, though, many credit card companies have been offering their customers insurance coverage as long as they pay their wireless bill with the card in question.
But New York had not allowed that option until Thursday, when legislation was enacted to let consumers acquire cell phone insurance from credit card companies or banks.
While the insurance won’t prevent damage or loss, it will provide reimbursement for replacing or repairing a phone, subject to the limitations and conditions of the various plans that are offered.
“Cellular phones have become essential items in both our personal and professional lives,” said Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, one of the sponsors of the legislation. “However, the portable nature of these devices makes them susceptible to damage, theft and mechanical breakdowns. Replacement can also be cost prohibitive.”
Consumer experts suggest it’s prudent to read the fine print of any phone insurance plan, whether it’s from a credit card or one of the insurers that have a direct relationship with the wireless providers. There is great variety in deductibles and limitations on coverage.
Richard Berkley, director of the Public Utility Law Project, an advocacy group that specializes in utility matters, noted wireless plans are not regulated by the state Public Service Commission.
But he noted it was welcome news that New York has ended its restriction against credit card coverage for cell phones.
“We think New York should be much more proactive in the consumer protection area when it comes to the cellular business,” Berkley said.
The New York legislation received overwhelming approval in both the Senate and the Assembly.
The measure was signed Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org