Q: I know insurance rates are supposedly set by the insurance commissioner. So how can insurance companies still charge whatever they want? According to my insurance company, the approved rate is $751 but they are charging $945. How is this legal?

K.K.

Answer: From your description, this appears to be a matter of “consent to rate,” according to Marla Sink, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Insurance.

The companies have the right to raise rates, but the policyholder has the right to either agree to the price or take their business elsewhere.

“This is allowed by N.C. laws,” she said.

“The policyholder has the option to accept the offer of coverage at the specified price or to shop for a better price from other insurers. If the consumer needs for NCDOI to look into the matter, then they can contact the Consumer Services Division by calling 855-408-1212.”

N.C. General Statute 58-36-30 states that “An insurer may deviate from the rates promulgated by the Bureau if the insurer has filed the proposed deviation with the Bureau and the Commissioner, if the proposed deviation is based on sound actuarial principles, and if the proposed deviation is approved by the Commissioner.”

The statute also spells out how an insurer is required to give notice to the insured “that the rates used to calculate the premium are greater than those rates that are applicable in the state of North Carolina.”

You can also call your insurance company or agent to try to find a way to get your premium down. They may be more willing to negotiate if you have other insurance, such as your car, with them and might take that with you if you leave them for another company. Or you can try to find a better deal by shopping around with other insurance companies, but you should make sure to secure other coverage before your current policy’s end date.

Q: What should we do with old alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc) to dispose of them? How about the coin sized NiCad batteries, where do they go when finished?

J.B.

Answer: Standard single-use alkaline or copper-zinc batteries can be disposed of in normal municipal waste, but should not be burned.

The 3RC Enviro-Station at 1401 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive takes some other types of batteries, including lithium batteries, which are frequently used in cameras, calculators and computer back-ups; nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries, which are used in flashlights, toys, cellphones and power tools; and sealed-lead batteries, which are used in video cameras, power tools, wheelchairs, ATVs, and metal detectors.

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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