What to Do if You Receive a Threatening Letter Re: Website Accessibility

    Posted by MAIA on July 20, 2020

    NOTE:  This was originally posted on 7/20/20 under the title Legal Notifications About Website Non-Compliance, but includes some updates and clarifications as of 7/29/20.

    It has come to our attention that many Massachusetts-based independent insurance agents have received an email and/or fax from Portell Law Group out of Washington, DC, with a demand letter and draft complaint saying that the agency’s website is not in compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards for customers with disabilities.

    If your agency has received such a notice, don’t panic. It is our understanding that this demand/suit has not been filed, but is rather a notification of intent. We have also been told that this firm will follow up with you via email, fax, and phone on a consistent basis, and will request a payment in order to help you solve this problem. 

    We have had some members submit a claim for this to their carriers as you may want to do for all such carriers. However, it is questionable what, if any, policy will apply due to the legal requirements surrounding this ADA compliance.

    What You Should Do About It

    While we are neither in a position nor qualified to give legal advice, we have asked counsel of the steps you should take.

    • The most important action you should take is to contact your website provider and have them ensure your site is in compliance with accessibility standards as soon as possible. While there are no definitive, formal regulations for compliance and accessibility, the generally recognized industry standard is known as Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.1. Website accessibility suits are happening with greater frequency. Websites that meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines may be able to avoid being targeted by such complaints.
    • It was recommended that you do not respond to the Portell Law Group, and do not send money.
    • The decision on whether to engage an attorney is of course up to you, however since the letters are a notification, not an actual suit, we don’t believe that there is a need to contact a lawyer at this time. However, if you have indeed been sued and served on this, then it is recommended that you contact your lawyer immediately.

    Website and Legal Resources

    Website Compliance: If your website vendor is not able to assist you, there are a number of vendors you can find online that do this and could help you. One that has been recommended to us and has helped others in similar situations is Lighthouse Works. The contact is Ramzy Spencer at rspencer@lighthouseworks.org or (407) 898-2483 ext. 254.

    Legal Advice: If you decide that you would like to contact a lawyer and don’t have one, Pat Cerundolo of Foley Hoag, pcerundolo@foleyhoag.com or 617-832 1252 may be able to assist you.

    Site Audit: If you are unsure whether your site is compliant, or you would like a comprehensive report on what needs to be done, you can have a site audit done. DIF Design has been recommended to us for this type of audit. They can also complete the fixes as well, if you wish. The contact is Peter Ellis, peter@difdesign.com or 413-788-0654.

    Related Reading

    Note: These resources may require MAIA or Big “I” member login. All MAIA members are Big “I” members, so if you don’t already have a login, you can set one up.

    If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact Nick Fyntrilakis at nfyntrilakis@massagent.com or 508-634-7352.


     

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    Topics: The Massachusetts Agent, Special Bulletin, 2020

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