On January 1, Dave Jones, outgoing California Insurance Commissioner, banned the use of gender in setting insurance rates for passenger cars in all States. Although California is not the first state to do so, insurers and critics have said that this decision had the effect of warning one of the largest US industries, which might not be able to resort to such discriminatory practices in the future.

"These regulations ensure that auto insurance rates are based on factors that are under the control of the driver, rather than on personal characteristics over which drivers have no control," Jones said in a statement. communicated. Car insurers have collected premiums of around $ 27.3 billion in 2017 in California in 2017, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Several other states already prohibit sex discrimination in auto insurance pricing, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), a Washington, DC-based surveillance group that includes Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and parts of Michigan.

But California stands out because it also prohibits accepting, denying or increasing the rates of applicants because of their educational status, work or credit score. The state has also eliminated gender-specific pricing in health insurance.

Higher rates for some drivers?

Ending a gender-based insurance rating system was probably obvious, because under a new law, California residents are no longer required to report their gender and can have it identified as " non-binary ", according to the CFA.

Motor insurers responded by saying that "some consumers will have to start paying higher fares" because they are denied the most accurate data to "help prudent drivers pay less," according to Vice President Armand Feliciano of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

For example, men generally drive more than women and "often engage in risky driving practices, including not using seat belts, driving while impaired and speeding up," he added.

The CFA claimed that recent studies show "despite misconceptions about the contrary prevalent", women pay more for auto insurance than men – especially after age 25 – which surprises most statisticians, as well as many insurers. But this could be based on factors other than driving skills, such as the finances or the target group of clients of an automobile insurer.

"No one has explained why many insurers are charging more for women these days, but this is definitely happening," said Doug Heller, insurance consultant at CFA. "This fits the more general insurance pricing model, based more on marketing and profit objectives than on risk assessment, which is a violation of the law in most states, but it is rarely taken into account by regulatory authorities. "

40 states allow it

Insurers could counteract by limiting or denying coverage in states that do not allow the use of sex and other factors to set premiums. "When the Insurance Regulatory Authority insists that automobile insurers receive less relevant information about the actuarial behavior of a motorist, they may choose to limit or suspend their activities in that State", said Vice President Michael Barry, of the Insurance Information Institute. represents automobile insurers. He noted that the use of gender as a rating factor had the approval of at least 40 state regulators.

Eric Poe, who runs Cure Auto Insurance, based in Princeton, NJ, said the claimant's sex was a minor factor in determining whether he was or was likely to have a car accident. Younger men and women were likely to fall into one of them, men being a little more exposed to accidents.

But Poe, a long-time advocate of not using discriminatory factors in pricing, said his real complaint concerned the use of the profession, a university degree and a four-year credit rating to decide who would get a policy and for how much. These factors are not based on drivers' ability but rather on their wealth, because the richest usually file fewer claims than the poorest, he said.

Poe also pointed to growing movements in California and New York, which also banned education and occupation as determinants of auto insurance premiums, as steps in the right direction.