Oregon Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali is alerting consumers that auto insurers cannot charge them more just because they dropped coverage at some point in the past. This applies to consumers who dropped coverage and didn't break the law by driving while uninsured.

"Consumers who believe they are paying more because of a legitimate lapse in coverage should call our consumer advocates and we'll look into it," Cali said. "Agents should also help their clients understand when they are required to have coverage and when they can safely drop coverage they don't need without being penalized."

Motorists might drop coverage for many legitimate reasons - they are not using their vehicle while away at college or on military service, they are using alternate transportation, or they no longer own a car, for example.

Yet, the Insurance Division's consumer advocates say consumers call regularly to say their rates increased after a lapse in coverage or that they were told their premiums would go up later if they didn't maintain coverage in situations where coverage wasn't required by law.

"We are committed to ensuring that Oregonians are treated fairly by insurance companies and agents, and we will take action against companies and agents who don't comply with the law," Cali added.

Insurance companies can require someone who is applying for insurance to explain why they went without coverage. Many companies provide a checklist so consumers can identify the valid reason that they dropped coverage.

Consumer advocates answer questions about all types of insurance and help with complaints from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 888-877-4894 (toll-free).