WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) took part in a congressional hearing on Wednesday that examined alleged auto insurance rate disparities between people of certain races and ethnicities and others.
Tlaib objected to the use of non-driving factors such as marital status to determine insurance premiums, and cited an article titled “Why do minorities pay more for car insurance?”, recently published on the website The Balance, which examined the exorbitant price many African Americans pay for car insurance while living in Black-majority neighborhoods.
“Consumers of some races and ethnicities are sometimes charged hundreds and even thousands of dollars more to finance a car and are charged more for the car itself,” said attorney John W. Van Alst of the National Consumer Law Center. “Additionally, their research found that ‘they are more likely to be pressured to buy add-on products such as service contracts, sometimes being told that the add-ons are required, and then are charged more for those same add-ons.’”
Citing research from professors Ian Ayres and Peter Siegelman, Van Alst explained that the disparities make cars more expensive for some races and ethnic groups, and often keep some from owning a car.
Of households at or below the poverty line, only 13 percent of Caucasian households lack access to a car, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic households and 31 percent of African American households.
“Many disparities arise because the market for cars is troublingly opaque and inconsistent,” Van Alst said. “A more consistent and transparent marketplace would not only benefit consumers of color but all marketplace participants, including car dealers, finance entities and insurers that want to compete fairly and openly on price and quality on a level playing field.”