In my recent Law Journal article, “A Dirty Little Secret in Car Insurance: Can lawyers Lead a Change?“ I explained the little-known practice of using income proxies in car insurance in New Jersey. Specifically, it brought to light the dirty secret that many of the publicly traded insurance companies, including those with very familiar household names, charge significantly higher rates to drivers with spotless driving records simply because they have lower paying jobs, are unemployed, or don’t have at least a college degree, a credit score above 700, or own a home. Every day, the car insurance industry is wrongly considering these factors when determining the eligibility of, or calculating insurance rates for, a particular person. It should come as no surprise that this practice disproportionately harms low-income and minority communities, essentially holding people back from economic opportunities simply because they are more likely to be poor.
Despite numerous consumer watch group studies and their criticism of this practice, drivers are not being notified that they are being charged higher rates or being sent to less attractive insurance companies on the basis of their socioeconomic status. The result—voters and consumers are not complaining. But a lack of formal and filed complaints does not mean that it is not happening and that the practice shouldn’t be banned. The time for action is now.