NAII Opposes Superfluous Credit Bills at Ore. Hearing

February 14, 2003

An Oregon regulation addressing credit-based insurance scores should receive a chance to take effect and work before lawmakers consider adopting unnecessary legislation that could prevent consumers from getting the automobile and homeowner policy discounts they deserve, the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII) testified Feb. 13 at a legislative hearing.

“Insurance scores give a more complete picture of the risk of loss based on an objective, unbiased analysis of a person’s past financial behavior,” Sam Sorich, NAII vice president and western regional manager, said. “Restricting the use of credit information presents a real danger that consumers who are able to find low priced insurance protection today will not be able to find that insurance tomorrow.”

Sorich explained the legal authority for personal lines insurers’ use of credit information; the development and nature of credit-based insurance scores; how the use of insurance scores achieves the fundamental goals of risk-based insurance underwriting and rating; and the reasons why NAII is opposed to SB 260, SB 280 and SB 314 during the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing.

SB 260 would prohibit insurers from using credit information for underwriting or rating. SB 314 would preclude insurers from using credit information when making underwriting decisions. SB 280 would impose restrictions on insurers’ use of credit information, including prohibiting the use of some credit characteristics.

“The absolute ban proposed by SB 260 raises serious legal questions
because it is inconsistent with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act,” Sorich said. “Consumers who are able to qualify for lower premiums because of their good credit scores would be forced to pay more for automobile and homeowners insurance if SB 260 were to become law.

“SB 260 and SB 314 would require insurers to ignore the established
relationship between credit characteristics and the risk of insured loss. The result would be unfair to the majority of automobile and homeowners insurance consumers who are able to qualify for lower insurance premiums today because of their favorable credit histories.”

Respondents to a recent NAII survey of its personal lines insurance carriers on their use of credit information reported that between 50 to 90 percent of their total auto or homeowners policyholders pay lower premiums as a result of their good credit histories. If credit information could no longer be used, then the majority of policyholders-in some cases, an overwhelming majority-would have to pay higher premiums, Sorich said.

Two months ago, the Oregon Division of Insurance adopted rules that
regulate insurers’ use of credit information. The rules establish notice
requirements, procedures for adjusting premiums when erroneous credit information is used and restrictions on the use of credit history to cancel or nonrenew insurance policies. The final rules were the result of a lengthy, deliberate process that included input from insurers, agents, consumer representatives and regulators-and address many of the critical and controversial issues that have been raised about insurance scores.

“The division’s newly adopted rules should be given a chance to operate and to prove their effectiveness before new proposals, such as those in SB 280, are passed by the legislature,” Sorich added. “Insurance carriers’ use of credit in underwriting and rating has helped to make insurance coverage more available for thousands of drivers and homeowners in Oregon. Restrictions on the use of insurance scores should be approached with great caution.”

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