Farmers Insurance Fined $10,000
Farmers Insurance fined for rerating policies using credit scores
By Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian
December 03, 2009, 1:51PM
The Oregon Insurance Division has fined Farmers Insurance Co. of Oregon $10,000 for altering consumers' insurance premiums based on their credit scores.
The penalty, handed down late last month, stems from Farmers' three-year practice of using a consumer's credit history to re-rate their auto and homeowners' insurance policies when they renewed. In more than 1,000 cases, the re-ratings resulted in higher premiums, the state's final order says.
Oregon law allows insurers to use credit scores as part of its criteria for refusing initial coverage or determine your rate. But it bars insurers from using credit history or an insurance score at renewal to re-rate a personal insurance policy, unless the consumer asks.
Farmers' spokesman Jerry Davies said via e-mail that a programming change in early 2006 "caused an undetected system issue. Unfortunately, the system issue caused our
mechanical system to stop working correctly.
The case stems from a consumer complaint the division received in July 2008 about poor service. In the process of investigating, state officials discovered Farmers' practice, said Ron Fredrickson, manager of the division's consumer advocacy team.
The improper reratings took place between January 2006 and Feb. 13, 2009 on 8,385 instances, state officials said. In 1,050 of those cases, the re-rating resulted in an increase in premiums.
Farmers has refunded consumers a total of $64,840, division spokeswoman Cheryl Martinis said. Customers with policies still in force were issued credits, Davies said. Farmers also is making changes to its computer system, state officials say.
To see other actions taken this year against insurers in Oregon, visit the insurance division's Web site.
-- Brent Hunsberger
Farmers Insurance Company of Oregon Final Order