By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - Lawmakers are considering a bill that would force insurance companies to set auto insurance rates based on an individual’s driving record, rather than using personal characteristics like online shopping habits and education.

Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, is the sponsor of House Bill 291 and doesn’t agree with insurance companies being able to use those other personal characteristics.

“This has nothing to do with your risk as a driver. It has how much they can take out of your pocket book,” Jacobson said.

Doug Heller, Consumer Federation of America lobbyist, said the way current pricing is set for auto insurance means low-income households can be charged more despite having perfect driving records.

“The banker and the lawyer get deals but if you work with your hands, you get a penalty,” Heller said.

Gregory Van Horssen, State Farm Insurance lobbyist, said the company he represents tries to keep customers by keeping their prices as low as possible. He said they do this by assessing the risk a customer presents over the span of a contract.

“Every time the legislature or a regulator or anybody else takes one of the predictive tools away from the company, it causes a more blended rate,” Van Horssen said.

Bruce Spencer, Allstate Insurance lobbyist, said this bill was unnecessary.

“if you want small companies to come in that can come in and maybe help those with more risk -- not when you pass statutes like this — those companies stay out of Montana,” Spencer said.

Thursday was the House Business and Labor Committee's first hearing of the bill.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.