In a Friday ruling, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson struck down Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s emergency rule temporarily banning insurance companies from using credit scores to determine premiums.
During the 2021 legislative session, Kreidler advocated for a bill that would ban insurer’s from using credit scores to determine rates for homeowner, auto, renter, and boat insurance. An amended version of the bill, Senate Bill 5010, passed out of the Senate Committee on Business, Financial Services & Trade, but then failed to progress.
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After the bill stalled in the legislature, Kriedler issued an emergency rule banning the practice. The ban went into effect in June and was set to last for three years. The American Property Casualty Insurance Association swiftly filed a lawsuit on the premise that the issue wasn’t an emergency, arguing that Kriedler didn’t have the authority to issue the rule.
In the court’s ruling, Wilson said the commissioner did not have “good cause” to file the rule as an emergency. She came to this ruling, in part, because during the legislative session, Kreidler did not convey to lawmakers that the issue was an emergency.
“Without the Insurance Commissioner emphasizing or saying this was a problem until the emergency rule was enacted, the court finds that the record is simply insufficient to support a finding of good cause.”
She said the OIC’s reasoning for the emergency rule did not warrant bypassing notice and public comment processes that take place with non-emergency rulemaking.
Wilson referenced information included in a declaration from Sen. Mark Mullet in her decision.
Sen. Mullet, who chairs the Senate Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee, says instead of lowering premiums costs, the commissioner’s emergency rule has resulted in price hikes for thousands of Washingtonians. He says the rule has created “a cost shift” by lowering premiums for those who file more claims, but increasing costs for those who file few claims.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association estimates over 1 million drivers in the state would see premium increases because of the rule, says Mullet.
In a statement following the ruling, Kreidler described the use of credit scores to set rates as an “unjust, secretive and unrealistic method to determine what consumers pay.”
“It’s way past time for the industry to apply reliable and fairer factors to determine premiums. There are better ways to maintain their profits than relying on this outdated practice that depends on people struggling with their credit scores.
I will continue the fight to permanently ban credit scoring and will be considering my options.”