California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi recently granted a statewide petition filed by consumer and community groups and the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco to bar insurance companies from basing their auto rates mostly on a driver’s ZIP code. The petition filed in May had asked Garamendi to open a rulemaking proceeding to amend the Insurance Department’s regulations so that auto insurance rates are based primarily on how well a policyholder drives, not where he or she lives. The broad-based coalition of the community and consumer groups and cities filing the petition comprises of Consumers Union, the National Council of La Raza, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, and the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco. The petition asks Commissioner Garamendi to require auto insurers to base their rates primarily on three mandatory factors—driving record, miles driven, and years of driving experience—as Proposition 103 requires. The consumer groups allege that basing auto rates primarily on where a driver lives is unfair to all Californians, but it has a particularly disproportionate impact on the poor and exacerbates the widespread problem of uninsured and underinsured drivers. They also allege that ZIP code rating will have a negative impact on drivers living in more rural communities.
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