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California Moves to Curtail Job and Education-Based Auto Insurance Discrimination

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 10:24
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Auto Insurance

Sacramento, CA -- Draft regulations released by the Department of Insurance Thursday move California one step closer to stopping auto insurance discrimination that has allowed insurers to overcharge lower income and minority drivers for decades, said Consumer Watchdog. The rules follow a petition submitted by Consumer Watchdog and ten civil rights and community groups to ban the use of job and education level in auto insurance rating.

California Proposition 103, enacted by voters in 1988, required auto insurance prices to be based primarily on how a person drives – driving record, miles driven annually, and years of driving experience. It also allowed groups of consumers to band together and negotiate discounts for their members. However, insurance companies have for decades illegally subsidized discounts for drivers with white collar occupations and college degrees by forcing other drivers to pay more.

“For too long, people of color and lower income Californians have overpaid for auto insurance to subsidize discounts for the wealthy.  The proposed rules move California one step closer to ending this unequal treatment for drivers without a college degree or a well-paid job. Wait staff and custodians with a good driving record shouldn’t pay more than doctors or attorneys,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

In a February 2019 petition, eleven groups including Consumer Watchdog sought a ban on the use of education or occupation in auto insurance rating. Read the petition: https://consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-02/Job%26EducationPetition.pdf

The rules proposed by the Department of Insurance in response would require insurance companies to prove that they offer group discounts equitably in lower income and diverse neighborhoods across California. They would bar insurers from cherry-picking only drivers with well-paid professions– such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers – for discounts, and charging more to the clerical, cleaning and support staff they work with. The rules would preserve existing discounts negotiated by legitimate groups of consumers for millions of their members, if insurers can prove their groups do not discriminate. The rules would prevent insurance companies from only offering discounts to arbitrary lists of well-paid professions or college graduates, as is currently the practice for many insurers.

See the draft regulation issued by the California Department of Insurance: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/2021/release021-2021.cfm

Seven of the top ten auto insurance companies in California currently discriminate against drivers based on job and education. See the list:

Insurance Cos

A Department of Insurance investigation in September 2019 found that insurers’ current practices cause “wide socioeconomic disparities,” with premiums as much as 25% higher for drivers who have lower levels of educational attainment and reside in ZIP codes with lower per capita incomes (reflecting job status) and in which communities of color predominate.

In 2017, just 12.2 percent of Latinx and 24 percent of Black Californians over the age of 25 had a bachelor's degree or higher. Latinx and Black Californians also earn lower median incomes than white Californians. Undocumented Californians in particular are most likely to have jobs in low-paying industries like agriculture, child care, restaurants, hotels and construction. These communities all pay more to subsidize discounts for drivers with better-paid professions, said the groups in their 2019 petition. 

The state of Massachusetts bans the use of education and occupation to set auto insurance rates; New York banned their use in 2017 unless insurers can prove they do not result in unfairly discriminatory rates; and, legislation to bar the use of education and occupation in auto insurance rating is currently moving through the New Jersey legislature.

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