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Increase doesn’t require pre-existence

Reinhardt 5 (Stephen, U.S. Judge for the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT, JASON RAY REYNOLDS; MATTHEW RAUSCH, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. HARTFORD FINANCIAL SERVICES GROUP, INC.; HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants-Appellees., lexis)

 

Specifically, we must decide whether charging a higher price for initial insurance than the insured would otherwise have been charged because of information in a consumer credit report constitutes an "increase in any charge" within the meaning of FCRA. First, we examine the definitions of "increase" and "charge." Hartford Fire contends that, limited to their ordinary definitions, these words apply only when a consumer has previously been charged for insurance and that charge has thereafter been increased by the insurer. The phrase, "has previously been charged," as used by Hartford, refers not only to a rate that the consumer has previously paid for insurance but also to a rate that the consumer has previously been quoted, even if that rate was increased before the consumer made any payment. Reynolds disagrees, asserting that, under the ordinary definition of the term, an increase in a charge also occurs whenever an insurer charges a higher rate than it would otherwise have charged because of any factor--such as adverse credit information, age, or driving record 8 --regardless of whether the customer was previously charged some other rate. According to Reynolds, he was charged an increased rate because of his credit rating when he was compelled to pay a rate higher than the premium rate because he failed to obtain a high insurance score. Thus, he argues, the definitions of "increase" and "charge" encompass the insurance companies' practice. Reynolds is correct. “Increase" means to make something greater. See, e.g., OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (2d ed. 1989) ("The action, process, or fact of becoming or making greater; augmentation, growth, enlargement, extension."); WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN ENGLISH (3d college ed. 1988) (defining "increase" as "growth, enlargement, etc[.]"). "Charge" means the price demanded for goods or services. See, e.g., OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (2d ed. 1989) ("The price required or demanded for service rendered, or (less usually) for goods supplied."); WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN ENGLISH (3d college ed. 1988) ("The cost or price of an article, service, etc."). Nothing in the definition of these words implies that the term "increase in any charge for" should be limited to cases in which a company raises the rate that an individual has previously been charged.

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