The burgeoning business of predicting risk is a sprawling and sometimes intrusive one. Some insurers and even employers use credit reporting data to try and gauge if a person will be a careful driver, or a dependable worker. A risk-prediction model even has been developed by credit scoring company FICO to determine if patients will take their medication as directed by a doctor. But should car insurance companies use your driving record to figure out how much to charge you for homeowners insurance? Does a fender-bender in your past make you more likely to have a tree land on your roof or a flood in your basement? Insurance giant Allstate thinks so, and consumer advocates are angry.
In October, Allstate began a pilot program of a new combo-policy called House & Home in Oklahoma, and plans to expand the program to other states, according to the Chicago Tribune. Of course, having multiple policies with the same carrier is nothing new; for years, insurance companies have offered discounts to incentivize drivers and homeowners to combine their coverage. In this case, the difference is that the customer’s record of car accidents — or “auto loss history,” in industry parlance — dictates how much they’ll have to shell out to get coverage for the roof over their heads.
“Allstate data shows a strong correlation between auto loss history and the likelihood of covered homeowners losses,” the company said in a statement. “Allstate’s new homeowners product recognizes this correlation and rewards customers who have good auto loss histories with lower homeowner rates.”
Joe Ridout, spokesperson for watchdog group Consumer Action, isn’t convinced. “Insurers are often seeking ways they can increase premiums,” he says.
Ridout points to recent statements made by Allstate chairman, president and CEO Thomas Wilson during an earnings conference call earlier this month. “We must continue to raise returns from the homeowners and annuity businesses. At the same time, we need to grow insurance premiums,” he said. The company would accomplish this in a number of ways, he continued, including “making sure we keep average premiums headed up and increasing the number of multiline households.”
“It doesn’t sound like they’re seeking to distribute risks evenly,” Ridout says. “That type of statement suggests that they’re seeking a pretext to gouge their policyholders.”
He adds that it’s not clear what data Allstate will be using to set prices, whether it will get reports of accidents via an insurance-industry database known as CLUE or whether the company actually will comb through policyholders’ DMV records, which could potentially include infractions that never led to an insurance claim, such as tickets for speeding or not wearing a seat belt. “I could see that there would be a concern for policyholders’ privacy” in the latter case, Ridout says.
Allstate did not respond to a request for clarification about what source they would be using by the time of publication.
If consumers don’t like this, there might not be much they can do about it. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Allstate is dropping customers with homeowners policies who don’t also have their car insured with the carrier, and there are unconfirmed reports of customers in New Jersey and Georgia being dropped as well. (Again, Allstate did not respond to a request for more information.)