Progressive to Pay Massachusetts $125,000 Fine for Website Mistake

NU Online News Service, Dec. 19, 11:52 a.m. EST

Progressive Direct has agreed to pay a $125,000 fine to Massachusetts because the automobile insurer told consumers it had used credit information to determine rates.

The state banned the use of credit scores and other socioeconomic factors several years ago as it looked to implement a “managed competition” auto-insurance market under former Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes, replacing the system at the time where the state set rates.

Late last month, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill making the practice unlawful.

The state’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) says Progressive’s website included a link that explained how credit was used in calculating a customer’s rates.

About 3,200 Massachusetts consumers hit the link, which was removed from the website on Nov. 16, the office says. Progressive says credit was not used to calculate rates for drivers in the Bay State.

"We accidentally added a link to the quoting section of our website that directed Massachusetts consumers to a report about the use of credit in the underwriting process," says Progressive spokesman Jeff Sibel. "This link is standard in other states where credit is a part of the rating and underwriting process. We didn’t account for Massachusetts-specific requirements, and as a result, we accidentally included the link on those state pages. We’re sorry this happened and apologize for any confusion it may have caused."

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance is also requiring Progressive to contact each consumer, explain what happened and offer each one a free check of their credit report, according to the OCABR.

“Our regulations make it very clear that carriers cannot use credit information in insurance rating or underwriting for Massachusetts drivers,” says Joseph G. Murphy, commissioner of insurance, in a statement. “This is a serious violation of those regulations and the public trust.” Violations of the significant consumer protections we have in place will not be tolerated.”

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