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New Law Limiting Insurers’ Use of Credit Reports Signed by Governor

6/27/2003

CONTACT: Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842


TALLAHASSEE – Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced today that a new law has hit the books that will limit the use of credit reports and credit scores by insurance companies that sell homeowners and auto insurance. Senate Bill 40-A, signed into law late yesterday, will prohibit insurers from using a person's credit history against them if they are dealing with unexpected medical bills or the death of a spouse. It will also prohibit insurers from denying coverage or raising rates based solely on a credit report or score.

"When credit history plays a role in a consumer's ability to obtain and maintain insurance coverage, extenuating circumstances should not be used against them," Gallagher said.

An increasing number of insurers are using credit information when deciding how much consumers should pay for insurance coverage. Of the top ten writers of homeowners insurance, half consider credit information in underwriting. Nine of the top ten writers of automobile insurance also consider credit information in underwriting.

Gallagher appointed a task force in the fall of 2001 to examine the insurance industry's use of credit reports when underwriting and rating automobile and homeowners insurance policies. After four public hearings around the state, task force members made a series of recommendations, several of which are included in the new law.

The new law, effective January 1, 2004, requires insurance companies to notify an applicant or an insured if their credit report is being requested for underwriting or rating purposes. If credit history played a role in an insurance company's decision to deny coverage or raise an insured's rates, insurers must inform the consumer and provide them with a copy of their credit report. If a consumer is adversely impacted by the use of a credit report, insurers will have to re-evaluate the insured's credit history every 2 years.

Insurance companies will also be prohibited from denying coverage or raising an insured's rates based, in whole or in part, on any of the following factors: the absence of or insufficient credit history, past due medical bills, or place of residence.

SB 40-A was sponsored by Senator Les Miller from Tampa. Representative David Rivera from Miami sponsored the House version.

Consumers can take the following steps to protect and improve their credit history:

§ Obtain a copy of your credit report. Credit reporting agencies include: Experian (800/682-7654), Equifax Credit Information Services (800/685-1111), and Trans Union Corporation (800/916-8800).

§ When your report arrives, make sure it is accurate. If you find a mistake, ask for a correction from the credit bureau. By law, the credit bureau must respond to your request within 30 days.

Credit Report Task Force Report
http://www.fldfs.com/Consumers/crtf

Press Release - 2/14/2002
http://www.fldfs.com/PressOffice/ViewMediaRelease.htm?ID=133