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Consumer Advocates Call On Group To Withdraw Support For Measure That Would Raise Car Insurance Rates on Good Drivers

The nonprofit Greenlining Institute acknowledged in a San Francisco Bay Guardian story published today that it received a $25,000 donation from Mercury insurance company, and expects more for its work in support of Mercury-backed Proposition 33. Prop 33 is funded by Mercury insurance’s billionaire chairman George Joseph and would raise car insurance rates on good drivers who have a break in insurance coverage, even if they’re not driving.

In a letter, Consumer Watchdog urged Greenlining to reverse its decision to support Proposition 33. Greenlining opposed a nearly identical ballot measure proposed by Mercury insurance company in 2010, Prop 17.

Download the letter here

Read the San Francisco Bay Guardian story

“We are writing to urge you to reconsider your shocking support for Proposition 33 and the auto insurance redlining it seeks to legalize,” wrote Consumer Watchdog founder Harvey Rosenfield and Washington DC director Carmen Balber. “Greenlining purports to represent the very low-income drivers who will be hurt the most if Proposition 33 is approved next November, allowing insurance companies to surcharge Californians who stop driving for legitimate reasons and then choose to get back on the road.”

Prop 33 would overturn a 24-year-old law banning discriminatory practices by auto insurance companies that were brought to light in the 1987 California civil rights case, King v. Meese.

“The rampant practice of surcharging, or refusing to sell insurance to, people who were not previously insured was one of the most pernicious of the discriminatory techniques employed by the insurance industry,” said the letter. “In signing the ballot argument for Proposition 33, you have aligned yourself with George Joseph and Mercury Insurance, the most persistent partisans for the legalization of the old redlining tricks that made auto insurance inaccessible to low-income families and communities of color for decades.”

The letter notes that Proposition 33 targets Californians who stop driving for legitimate reasons:

  • When low-wage workers who commute by bus need to get a car in order to maintain their job, they will be surcharged by about 40% for auto insurance;
  • When immigrant drivers are finally able to obtain a California driver’s license and try to buy insurance, they will be forced to pay hundreds and possibly thousand of dollars more than the drivers who purchased insurance in the past, even though they are equally good drivers;
  • When drivers who have found it financially impossible to maintain uninterrupted insurance coverage turn to the auto insurance market in hopes of complying with the mandatory insurance law, they will face a financial penalty for being poor;
  • Those who cannot afford these massive surcharges will be exposed to penalties and seizure of their vehicles for failure to comply with the Financial Responsibility Law.