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Aug 30

Poll shows support for banning credit scores in auto insurance coverage

QUINCY —

A new poll indicates that a ballot question to ban the use of credit scores for car insurance would be approved if it went to voters today.

A phone poll commissioned by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents shows that 63.5 percent of likely voters would definitely support or probably support a law banning insurance companies from using credit scores, occupation and education levels when setting auto insurance rates. Meanwhile, 29.1 percent said they would probably or definitely vote against such a proposal.

In response to another question, nearly 83 percent said credit scores shouldn’t play a role in determining auto insurance premiums. “It verifies what many people believe instinctively about the fairness and unreliability of credit scores,” said Dennis Murphy, a lobbyist for the agents.

The state’s previous insurance commissioner wrote regulations that banned the use of socioeconomic factors such as credit scores and occupations in underwriting and setting premiums for car insurance. The current insurance commissioner said he won’t change that rule as long as he holds the job.

But the agents’ group wants a more permanent solution: A ban established by state law is more difficult to eliminate than one that exists as a regulation.

MAIA would prefer that the Legislature enacts this ban first, but the group is prepared to do what it takes to get its bill on the November 2012 ballot if necessary. MAIA is also concerned about a bill before the Legislature that would lift the ban on credit scores, while putting some restrictions in place.

Insurers oppose the agents’ proposal, saying a law is unnecessary because of the state regulation. The insurers would like the ability to use credit ratings. They also argue that the wording of the ballot question could jeopardize discounts for factors such as being a good student or in an alumni association.

The poll of 609 likely voters was conducted by West Springfield-based JEF Associates between Aug. 8 and Aug. 11.

Jon Chesto may be reached at jchesto@ledger.com.

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