A Federal Trade Commission report on the insurance industry’s controversial use of consumer credit records to rate them as risks will not be ready by its federally mandated December deadline
The report was called for in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions, or FACT Act of 2003, which extended provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and implemented a number of reforms designed to help consumers track and protect their credit information.
Added to the legislation through an amendment by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., the report is officially due on Dec. 4.
The insurance industry describes credit scoring as a useful tool, predictive of risk that helps keep rates down. Opponents say it impacts hardest on low income and minority consumers and fails to account for onetime events that can impact credit.
A spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said the report was delayed because the FTC “needs more time to pull together information” from insurance companies. Rep. Frank is the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, where the FACT Act, and the amendment mandating the study, originated.
However, David Snyder, vice president and assistant general counsel for the American Insurance Association, said the insurance industry is not the cause of the delay. The AIA had heard “some speculation” the report might not be ready on time, he said, but did not know of any specific reason for the delay.
“One reason it cannot be is for any lack of cooperation on our part,” he said, adding that the AIA’s policy has been to cooperate fully with the FTC and provide whatever information it is asked for.
The credit scoring issue has generally been handled at the state level with many states adopting a model regulation crafted by the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, or something similar to it.
Efforts to ban the use of credit scoring in Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, Texas and Washington were defeated in 2005. Montana instead adopted a measure based on the NCOIL model, and New Mexico passed its own legislation that was supported by the insurance industry.
In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic members of the state House and Senate said this month they will include a provision prohibiting insurers from using a consumer’s credit history or credit score for determining their insurance rates in a legislative insurance reform package.
A prior attempt to bar the use of credit scores through a state Office of Financial and Insurance Services regulation was overturned by a state circuit court judge earlier this year.