January 16, 2020
NY DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES AND DIVISION OF HUMAN RIGHTS TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT NEW YORK DRIVERS FROM DISCRIMINATION IN AUTO INSURANCE BASED ON IMMIGRATION STATUS
NEW YORK – Financial Services Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell and Division of Human Rights Commissioner Angela Fernandez today announced action to ensure individuals newly licensed under New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, known as the “Green Light Law,” are protected from unfair or discriminatory practices by auto insurers based on the driver’s immigration status.
In guidance issued today in consultation with DHR, DFS directed automobile insurers to ensure they are following applicable laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in the setting of insurance rates as newly licensed undocumented immigrants seek auto insurance. The Green Light Law allows individuals to apply for a standard “not for federal purposes” driver’s license or learner’s permit regardless of their immigration status. Undocumented immigrants began receiving driver’s licenses and learner’s permits in December under the Green Light Law.
“DFS has been a national leader in investigating and prohibiting unfair and discriminatory practices in the setting of insurance rates, and we will continue to be vigilant as members of New York’s immigrant community become licensed drivers,” said Superintendent Lacewell. “DFS expects all auto insurers to set rates and issue insurance policies in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, and this guidance sends an important reminder that immigration status should not be considered as a factor in how much a driver pays for insurance.”
“Discrimination against immigrants who are legally authorized to drive puts up an appalling roadblock to economic equality. It is unfair and it is against the law in New York. DHR will vigorously enforce the State’s anti-discrimination law against any place of public accommodation that offers different terms to a customer based on their national origin,” said Commissioner Angela Fernandez.
In the guidance issued today, DFS advised insurers that they should, among other things:
- Recognize that a licensed undocumented immigrant may have a driving history in his or her place of origin that could be considered for underwriting purposes;
- Not deny, due to his or her citizenship or legal status in the United States, a licensed undocumented immigrant’s opportunity to apply for auto insurance, including the ability to participate in the many usage-based insurance or telematics programs that DFS has approved for insurers authorized in New York; and
- Eliminate any bias, disparate impact or factor usage based on citizenship or legal status in the United States in any data sources, algorithms or predictive models relied upon for underwriting or rating purposes or otherwise.
During the past several years, DFS also has taken action to prohibit unfair and discriminatory practices in the setting of insurance rates, including prohibiting the use of education and occupation in the setting of auto insurance rates. DFS promotes and supports responsible underwriting innovations to accurately rate risks and determine appropriate premiums. DFS has successfully enabled a number of insurance providers in New York to implement usage-based insurance or telematics programs that can help customize rates based on an individual’s driving experience.
New York Insurance Law includes other important consumer protections against any discriminatory or unfair practices. Auto insurers may not refuse to issue a policy or terminate a policy because of the race, creed, color, national origin, disability, sex, marital status or advanced age of an insured or applicant.
Individuals who believe they may have been subjected to discrimination when applying for auto insurance should file a complaint at www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint. DFS and DHR will review filed complaints from New Yorkers.
A copy of the circular letter can be found on the DFS website.