For Immediate Release
May 24, 2017
Richard Marcantonio, Public Advocates, firstname.lastname@example.org , 415.516.2076
Bruce Mirkin, Greenlining Institute, email@example.com , 415.846-7758
Milly Hawk Daniel, Policylink, firstname.lastname@example.org , 917.658.6468
Community Organizations Call for Transparent Public Inquiry by CA Insurance Commissioner Jones into Charges of Auto Insurance Discrimination
San Francisco – Rejecting CA insurance commissioner Dave Jones’ decision to investigate apparent discriminatory auto insurance rates behind closed doors, a group of advocacy and community organizations pressed him for a formal public inquiry into the findings of a recent study by ProPublica on discriminatory auto insurance practices targeting communities of color.
In a letter to the commissioner, the groups called for a process that would allow for the examination under oath of insurance executives from companies involved as well as the public review of data submitted by eight insurers as part of the investigation. According to ProPublica’s report, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, and insurers in the USAA group were among those implicated in higher rates for drivers with identical safety records based solely on the zip code where they live. Commissioner Jones said allegations contained in the ProPublica report are being taken “very seriously,” but to date has promised only an internal investigation.
“So far, Commissioner Jones is only committing to half-steps,” said Richard Marcantonio, Managing Attorney of Public Advocates Inc., one of 12 signatories to the letter. “But this issue is just too important to have the public see conclusions without having any basis for understanding what went into them.”
In April, ProPublica found in their national review of auto insurance rates that some major insurers charge residents of minority neighborhoods as much as 30% more than residents of other areas with similar accident costs. In California, Proposition 103 bars insurers from charging rates that are excessive or unfairly discriminatory. Initially, state officials disputed the ProPublica report, questioning its methodology. Only after being urged by Public Advocates and other groups did the CA Department of Insurance decide to launch its own internal investigation.
“Given the gravity of ProPublica’s findings of widespread discrimination by auto insurers in violation of voter-approved consumer protections in California, an internal investigation is not enough,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink. “The public and aggrieved residents of low-income communities deserve a full and open hearing.”
Redlining has been a long-standing civil rights issue in California. In 2004, a unanimous California Supreme Court concluded not only that the Insurance Commissioner has the power to collect redlining data from insurers, but that the public has an absolute right to obtain that data upon request (State Farm v. Garamendi).
“Price discrimination based on race is unacceptable,” said Orson Aguilar, President of the Greenlining Institute. He added, “It’s a shame that insurance redlining is still alive.”
Signatories to the letter to Insurance Commissioner Jones are listed below:
Richard Marcantonio, Managing Attorney
PUBLIC ADVOCATES INC.
Jeanie Ward-Waller, Policy Director
CALIFORNIA BICYCLE COALITION
Josh Stark, State Policy Director
Orson Aguilar, President
Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO
Tony Dang, Executive Director
Taylor Thomas, Research and Policy Analyst
EAST YARD COMMUNITIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Rico Mastrodonato, Senior Government Relations Manager
TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND
Eve Sanford, Advocacy Coordinator
SANTA BARBARA BICYCLE COALITION (SBBIKE)
Stevi Dawson, Board Member
EAST BAY HOUSING ORGANIZATIONS
Rev. Earl W. Koteen, Member, Coordinating Committee
Ellen Wu, Executive Director