Insurance Credit Scoring: An Ethical Issue
The issue at hand is the use of a consumer's credit score as an underwriting tool for auto insurance rates. What is a credit score or FICO score? A FICO score is a credit score developed by Fair Isaac & Co. Credit scoring is a method of determining the likelihood that credit users will pay their bills. Fair, Isaac began its work with credit scoring in the late 1950s and, since then, scoring has become widely accepted by lenders as a reliable means of credit evaluation. A credit score attempts to condense a borrower's credit history into a single number. Fair, Isaac & Co. and the credit bureaus do not reveal how these scores are computed. The Federal Trade Commission has ruled this to be acceptable.
Isn't it interesting that the score most important in our financial lives, our consumer credit score does not even contain full disclosure? As stated above the Federal Trade Commission has ruled that it is ok for Fair Isaac & Co not to disclose the algorithms used in this process, but what about consumer rights.
While it is important to understand what a FICO score is, it is not the main issue of this paper, insurance rates are. So where is the connection? All the public knows is that Fair Isaac tells us there is a high correlation between people with bad credit and high risk drivers. This notion is insane and from what I can see from this black box approach, there is no real causation between the two.
This type of reasoning is similar to convicting a person of something before they have even committed a crime. For instance, let's say I do a study and that study shows there is a high correlation between criminals and people with bad credit. Is this to say that just because you have bad credit you are more likely to commit a crime and therefore you should be profiled or perhaps locked up because you are a risk to society?
This system is discriminating against minorities, disabled and in my case college students among others. Fair Isaac & Co claims that they cannot show the sophisticated algorithms they use to calculate these correlations and scores because they fear that they would be giving up valuable proprietary information that was very costly to develop and maintain. What about the cost to consumer's who may be paying higher rates or in worse cases even denied insurance based on these practices.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act forbids creditors from considering race, sex, marital status, national origin, and religion, but if we don't even know how these companies are calculating these scores, how in the world could we possibly know whether or not they are discriminating. This smoke and mirror approach is what many government agencies do to subtly discriminate and extort money from the American.
What about extortion? As I reflect on this topic extortion comes to mind. Webster defines extortion as to "obtain by force or compulsion." By using such unfounded tactics consumers are forced into paying the higher rates. First of all, 90% of all insurance companies use this procedure; secondly in the interest of society legislation requires all Americans with cars to have car insurance. Living in a country where it is virtually impossible to live without a car doesn't this present some force to pay the rates? Also, lets say you cannot afford to buy a car with cash, in which case you could obtain liability insurance alone and save quite a lot of money; but instead you take out a loan, the bank will require you to obtain full coverage auto insurance to cover them until you pay off the loan. While this case may not represent an extreme case of extortion it does give reason to ponder the connection.
Insurance companies tout themselves as representing peace of mind, protection and security, but at what cost. Over the past 10 years, I have spent roughly 20,000 dollars in car insurance, what have I claimed? Easily less than half and I totaled a car. Is insurance just a form of legalized gambling protected by government? The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1944 exempts the insurance industry from antitrust laws, so here we are again without a choice; collusion is the rule not competition. Where are the ethics of lawmakers? Many states are screaming about this controversial issue and some states such as California have had some success, but with protection from top government what can consumers do?
I have personally written the Governor of Pennsylvania about the subject, one of my main questions was;
"I am a concerned citizen. Recently I noticed my car insurance rates increasing at a substantial rate. I investigated the situation only to find out that my credit rating was making the difference, not my driving record."
The response I received from the Department of Insurance follows:
This letter is in reponse to your complaint filed with the Pennsylvania Insurance Dpartment through Governor Edward G. Rendell's correspondence office regarding the use of credit as an underwriting tool for automobile insurance in Pennsylvania.
I have read through your concerns and it appears that you are questioning the underwriting of automobile insurance. Specifically, the use of credit in determining eligibility. Many different factors go into the underwriting of an insurance policy, such as type of vehicle, drivers, location, etc. and most recently credit history. Pennsylvania law does not prohibit an insurance company fromusing credit as an underwriting tool so long as it is done within the first 60 days of writing a policy. Under the law, an insurance company is granted a 60 day window from the inception of a policy to determine whether or not the policy fits into the company's guidelines.
In your letter, you stated credit scoring in part of the rating structure and presumable must be approved by the Insurance Department. Actually, credit scoring is part of a company's underwriting guidelines and the Dapartment only regulates underwriting guideline to the extent they are not discriminatory.
Also, Federal law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows credit information to be used for underwriting financial and insurance transactions.
Debra L. Roadcap
Consumer Service Investigator
The response I received is hardly what I would call an answer, of course Federal Law preempts state law and the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows for use of such information, but the real question is why? An answer to this question has still not been received. I believe this is a highly unethical practice in which insurance companies are being given free rule to take advantage of low-income families, single mothers, disabled, minorities and others. If the government wants to do the right thing they should judge consumers on what they have done individually, not what scientist's hypothesis they might do based on the history of others.
About The Author
My name is Richard D. Schrader, I advocate consumer education on many topics and help consult American consumers with excessive credit card debt. You can visit my website at www.debtjustice.net
Is Purchasing Travel Insurance Smart?
To answer the question "is purchasing travel insurance smart?" let's look at what insurance is.When you purchase insurance - health insurance, homeowner's insurance, car insurance, life insurance, or travel insurance - you're not making an investment. It's not the same as going to the bank and depositing money and expecting to reap financial rewards at some point. No, any insurance including travel insurance is about sharing risk in case of unforeseen catastrophic events.For thousands of years, risks have been shared during times of tragedy. The first formal insurance company, Lloyd's, was formed in 1769, and their insurance concept remains today - to gather the premiums of clients as a pool of resources to return to clients who experience covered events.Is purchasing ...(related: Insurance)
Disability Income Insurance Can Meet All Your Financial Needs
Disability income insurance can cover you in the event of a severe accident or illness but, it really depends on how much disability income ...(related: Insurance)
Used Car Insurance
Every state requires that drivers carry liability insurance. The liability coverage section of an auto insurance policy provides financial protection from liability claims against you when you (or certain other people) cause an accident that results in bodily injuries to other people and/or damage to their property. Every state has mandatory minimum levels of coverage in this area. The rationale behind such laws is that at-fault drivers should be able to compensate victims who suffer accident-related losses. But the required minimums in most states don't even come close to covering the costs of a serio...(related: Insurance)
Home Insurance Terms
Home insurance, or even homeowners insurance, is an insurance policy that combines insurance on the home, its contents, loss of the use of the home (additional living expenses) and, typically, the more individual possessions of the homeowner, as well as liability insurance for accidents that can transpire at the home.The cost of homeowners insurance scales upward depending on what it would cost to replenish the home, and which extra "riders", meaning extra items to be insured, are bound to the policy. The insurance policy itself is a long contract, and list what will and what will not be paid in the case of various cases.Virtually all insurers charge less if it appears less likely the home will be damaged or even destroyed: as an example, if the...(related: Insurance)
Useful Tips On Reducing Insurance Costs
Most people want lower insurance costs but are often too lazy to do anything about it. All it takes is a little time and effort and you could be looking at a reduced insurance premium.Here are some useful tips on reducing insurance costs:Shop AroundAlthough it may sound an obvious thing to do, you will be surprised at how many people just renew their policy without comparing prices. It'll take some time, but could save you a good sum of money.Check consumer guides, insurance agents and online insurance quote services. Ask friends what they are paying for their policies. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don't cons...(related: Insurance)
Cheap Health Insurance Rates And Personal Health Insurance
If you've been out of school for a couple of years or perhaps just graduated from college, you're probably a candidate for cheap health insurance. Once a person reaches a certain age they're no longer covered by their parents health insurance plan. If you're just starting out it's important to find cheap health insurance coverage. If you've just graduated from school or just started work and y...(related: Insurance)
Independent Insurance Agents Unite! Insurance And Financial Discussion Forums Are All The Rage
The online discussion forum has emerged as the medium of choice for many Americans. Most recently, forum platforms like vBulletin, Infopop, and Snitz have enabled the novice webmaster to host and moderate their own forum. One of the areas that needs this type of medium the most is the Insurance and Financial Industry.To give you a little background, the online discussion forum is an updated version of the old bulletin board of the nineties. Members can join, post, and browse topics at will. Free speech and a candid mood makes it all the more enjoyable. Some discussion forums even allow members to chat amongst themselves (is it a chick or a pea?) in private areas or send "PMs" (private messages) to each other if they do not want to share it among the other members of the forum. The thing ...(related: Insurance)
Health Insurance Coverage
Health insurance is something that everyone needs today. The rising cost of visiting a health care provider or a hospital stay makes it imperative that everyone have some type of health care coverage. Government statistics estimate that over 40 million people in America are not covered by any type of health insurance on any given day. That's an enormous number of people who really are taking a financial risk.While most Americans are able to obtain some type of health insurance through their place of employm...(related: Insurance)
Are You Sure That Heirloom Oriental Rug From Your Aunt Hilda Is Really Insured?
Gone are the days of the cinder block and wood plank bookcases. You've come along way from that old reliable jut rug and CDs (or in some cases, actual vinyl albums) stored in milk crates. That's the way it is with first apartments, and sometimes second and third apartments too. It's what you were able to afford when you first set out own your own. And it was fun, sort of. But today's a new day, and you've paid your dues and then some. You're the king or queen of your own castle, a castle as well-appointed as any luxury model home, with beautiful area rugs, antique furnishings, and other treasurers that you'd hate ever to see lost.Because your home, and to a certain extent the items in that furnish it, will most like...(related: Insurance)
Why Boat Insurance Doesnt Help A Lousy Sailor
For thousands of years men have sailed the seas. From the earliest trips by the discoverers and settlers of the Americas, Australia and the Pacific Island...(related: Insurance)
10 Tips To Save On Healthcare Insurance
Americans shopping for their own healthcare insurance can substantially cut premiums by following 10 simple steps, according to leading insurers.Answer Financial Inc. (http://www.answerfinancial.com), cites the following cost-saving measures:Comparison shopYou can save money by comparison shopping and exploring various options such as higher de...(related: Insurance)