GM Hit With Second Lawsuit Over Sharing Customer Data That Led to Higher Insurance Rates

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images via The New York Times Photo Source: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images via The New York Times

A second lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, has been filed against leading car maker General Motors. Customers accuse the automaker of collecting data on its customers and then passing that data to third parties. The information was then used by auto insurance providers to justify rake hikes for some drivers.

The second lawsuit was filed in the Southern Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and named the initial plaintiffs as Larry Reed of Michigan and Darnell McCoy Sr. of California. The lawsuit reads, "there are more than 100 putative class members" and is seeking over $5 million in damages.

The 246-page complaint covers over eight million GM vehicles and argues that a recent statement made by GM about its collection practices "suggests an acknowledgment by defendants that they in fact did not have the requisite legal consent by their customers for this data sharing practice."

On March 22, the carmaker announced that it would stop collecting data on its customers and that it would cut ties with data brokers that it had been working with. GM revealed in a statement after the first lawsuit was filed, "OnStar Smart Driver customer data is no longer being shared with LexisNexis or Verisk, another analytics firm that GM had used to collect and share data to help businesses manage risk. Customer trust is a priority for us, and we are actively evaluating our privacy processes and policies."

This second lawsuit was prompted by an earlier Florida complaint filed on March 13 in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida. That action similarly accused GM, its connected-services subsidiary OnStar, and LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a data and analytics company GM worked with, of violating consumer protection and privacy laws. That lawsuit names Romeo Chicco of Florida as the lead plaintiff.

Chicco says that after GM captured and shared his driving data with OnStar and LexisNexis, his insurance rates nearly doubled. He argues that he never agreed to the services provided by OnStar and that he never gave permission to have his data shared. After calling his insurance company, Liberty Mutual, to ask why his rates went up, he was told that the rate adjustment was based on information on his LexisNexis report. The report detailed that he had taken 258 trips in his Cadillac in recent months. There were also details including data on "acceleration events, hard brake events, and high-speed events." His complaint explains, "Notably absent from the consumer report is any context related to these driving events."

Both lawsuits argue that GM customers, particularly male customers, were targeted and that their driving history and data were used against them to prop up insurance premiums, which in turn benefitted the insurance companies.

The Michigan lawsuit highlights that GM and OnStar made it so that customers did not know they were enrolling in the option to have their data collected. As such, their ability to make choices as customers were eliminated. Instead, the lawsuit argues that in 2022, customers were “forced” into paying for a three-year OnStar and Connected Services plan, regardless of whether they wanted it or not. Purchasing the connected services plan had previously been an option drivers could choose to add on, but as of 2022, the service was included as standard on all GMC and Buick models.

OnStar has pushed back against the claims and issued a statement that read in part, "With customer consent, we share select OnStar Smart Driver insights about driving behavior with LexisNexis and Verisk, third-party telematics exchange companies that work with some insurance carriers" adding, "insights about driving behavior are only shared with an insurance carrier with your explicit consent."

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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