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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

WA Superior Court: Insurance commissioner overstepped in banning credit scoring in underwriting

State Issues Courts Insurance Consumer Finance Credit Report Covid-19 Credit Scores Underwriting CARES Act

State Issues

On August 29, the Washington State Superior Court entered a final order declaring that the Washington Insurance Commissioner exceeded his authority when he issued an emergency rule earlier this year banning the use of credit-based insurance scores in the rating and underwriting of insurance for a three-year period. As previously covered by InfoBytes, several industry groups led by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) sued to stop the rule from taking effect. The rule was intended to prevent discriminatory pricing in private auto, renters, and homeowners insurance in anticipation of the end of the CARES Act, and specifically prohibited insurers from “us[ing] credit history to place insurance coverage with a particular affiliated insurer or insurer within an overall group of affiliated insurance companies.” The rule applied to all new policies effective, and existing policies processed for renewal, on or after June 20, 2021. Industry groups countered that the rule would harm insured consumers in the state who pay less for auto, homeowners, and renters insurance because of the use of credit-based insurance scores to predict risk and set rates.

According to a press release issued by APCIA, earlier this year the superior court issued a bench decision granting the trade group’s petition for a declaratory judgment and invalidating the rule. The superior court “held that the Commissioner could not rely on the more general rating standard statute that prohibited “excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory” rates to “eliminate all meaning from the more specific credit history statutes by which the legislature had authorized its use.” Calling the final order “an important victory for Washington consumers, particularly lower risk senior policyholders who were forced to pay more to subsidize higher risk policyholders because the rule eliminated the use of credit,” the trade groups said they were pleased that the court agreed with their position that the Commissioner “exceeded his authority when he acted contrary to the longstanding statute that authorized the use of credit in the property and casualty insurance space.”

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