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New Jersey retailer suspects insurance cancellation is tied to e-bikes, e-bike service

Published September 26, 2023

WILDWOOD, N.J. (BRAIN) — Scott Chambers never made a claim for Zippy's Bikes in the five years he's been insured by Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Company (PMA). While the rates increased somewhat, nothing prepared Chambers for the notice he received dated Sept. 13.

"Unfortunately the program that we have your insurance in will no longer be writing Bicycles Shops at renewal. The non-renewal has nothing to do with your business specifically, the company will just no longer be writing the class of business."

The notice came "completely out of the blue. Unexpected," Chambers wrote to BRAIN in an email.

Zippy's Bikes is family owned and operated, specializing in beach cruisers and carrying Trek, Electra, Sun, and other brands. In addition to those brands' e-bikes, Zippy's carries Biria e-bikes, and e-scooters. It offers a full-service shop — including e-bike repair — and rental program.

PMA didn't provide Chambers a specific reason or reasons for the cancellation. BRAIN was unable to reach anybody with PMA or the program's wholesale insurance broker, Risk Placement Services, for comment. Chambers said he thinks it's because he sells and repairs e-bikes.

"That would be our guess because of the fires and issues with unapproved UL and cheap Chinese lithium-ion products in New York City, and possibly the Rad Power lawsuits," said Chambers, who added he's never had any claims with any of his carriers in 13 years.

As of last week, when the New York City Council approved a two-year city-funded trade-in program to get uncertified e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries off the streets, there had been 175 lithium-ion battery fires, 96 injuries, and 14 deaths.

Chambers said his PMA policy expires in January and his broker is looking for new coverage. He said he's concerned that the industry is moving toward a time when fewer insurance companies will be writing bike shop policies and the ones that do will have exorbitant rates.

In a Guest Editorial in the December issue of BRAIN, Scott Chapin of Marsh & McLennan Agency wrote that most carriers that insure bike shops are wary of e-bikes and often don't renew retailers who sell them. He suggested in the editorial for retailers to request from brands a certificate of insurance to prove product liability coverage. Chambers said he provided that document to his carrier without success. 

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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