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Do Firefox Users Pay More For Car Loans?

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the no-wait-hear-me-out dept.

Firefox 371

RandyOo writes "Someone wrote in to The Consumerist to report an interesting discovery: while shopping online for a car loan, Capital One offered him different rates, depending on the browser he used! Firefox yielded the highest rate at 3.5%, Opera took second place with 3.1%, Safari was only 2.7%, and finally, Google's Chrome browser afforded him the best rate of all: 2.3%! A commenter on the article claims to have been previously employed by Capital One, and writes: If you model the risk and revenue of applicants, the type of browser shows up as a significant variable. Browsers do predict an account's performance to some degree, and it will affect the rates you will view. It isn't a marketing test. I was still a bit dubious, but at least one of her previous comments backs up her claims to have worked for a credit card company. Considering the outcry after it was discovered that Amazon was experimenting with variable pricing a few years back, it seems surprising that consumers would be punished (or rewarded), based solely on the browser they happen to be using at the time!"

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Repeat after me (-1, Troll)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123374)

Correlation is not equal to causation.

Re:Repeat after me (5, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123376)

Who's saying it is? Correlation is really all insurance rates need to be based on.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123496)

The phrase "correlation is not causation" is strongly correlated with stupidity.

Re:Repeat after me (0, Redundant)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123560)

Flamebait? Yes.
True? Yes.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123922)

Only when used in idiotic contexts like the first post.

In this case, they are looking for patterns, and the actual cause is irrelevant, if they notice patterns that indicate higher risk, regardless of the root cause, they follow them.

Now, there are correlations (violent video game players have a higher incidence of violent activity) that, by themselves, do not imply causation (further tests are needed for causation). When someone tries to use these as an implication of causation, then the phrase "correlation does not imply causation" is quite intelligent.

And, I just implicitly defended Capital One. I feel morally dirty now. Thanks a lot.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Informative)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34124034)

Yeah, I'd feel dirty if I defended Capital One, too.

They're local here and known by many people as Crapital One for their firing sprees and tendency to make employees disappear. They're also the fastest bank in the nation to sue their own customers. (I sell data to bankruptcy lawyers who keep up with this kind of thing.) They're the last bank I'd go to for a credit card or a loan anyway.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123432)

Repeat after me "People who blindly yell 'Correlation is not causation' should be slapped with a trout.'

FTA: "I figured it had just gone up since I received the email. I tried to use their little payment calculator but the flash based widget wouldn't work properly in the Firefox Beta so I loaded up Safari to try and funny enough the rate offered was 2.7%. I checked in Chrome and Opera to see if it was maybe just something wrong with the Firefox beta and Chrome's rate was 2.3% while Opera's was 3.1%."

and "Devin installed fresh versions of the browsers in order to make sure the changes didn't result from different cookie settings. It seems those looking for a Capital One loan should apply through Chrome."

There are no other obvious variables. The only crime you can punish this guy for is not repeating the experiment across other computers. You can try it for yourself to see if it holds true for you as well.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123586)

Installing fresh browser versions doesn't clear your existing cookies...

Re:Repeat after me (0, Troll)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123718)

That is a valid point. However, the OP's "correlation is not causation" is not a valid point. I just get so freaking tired of the Pavlovian response...

And you can run the same experiment on your own PC and determine if the findings are true or not.

Same on Zillow for mortgage rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123862)

I can tell you that this was the case for me on Zillow, when it comes to calculating the monthly payment. I and my brother thought it was quite strange but assumed it must be some coding bug. IE gave lower numbers than firefox or chrome. I don't remember what the numbers were.

No. You repeat after me: (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123450)

We perceive our perceptions.

Re:Repeat after me (5, Funny)

Reilaos (1544173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123462)

Correlation may not imply causation, but it certainly does waggle its eyebrows meaningfully in causations direction.

Re:Repeat after me (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123640)

"Correlation is not equal to causation" is what an unintelligent person says when they wish to sound intelligent. it's something they once heard they thought was clever, and they think that by aping this simpleminded thought they are adding something to the conversation, when they are just generating useless noise

an intelligent person would actually be looking at the merits or lack thereof of the correlation, and talking about if causation is implied or not

Re:Repeat after me (3, Insightful)

belthize (990217) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123732)

Blindly stating 'Correlation is not equal to causation' is not evidence against causation.

Re:Repeat after me (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123802)

Sure, but in this case it makes perfect sense. Obviously anyone using Firefox is a filthy open source hippy who demands everything for free. If you tried to loan money to a Firefox user he'd probably just spend it all on weed and then claim your demands to pay back the money violate his privacy in some way.

Opera users aren't good people to lend to either, since none of them have any income. They spend all of their time scanning the Internet for stories about browsers (any browser) so they can jump in and extol the virtues of Opera. This leaves no time to hold down a real job.

Safari users are good people to lend to because, since they're using an Apple product, you already know they're accustomed to paying huge premiums for slightly shinier versions of various consumer goods. All you have to do is send the bill in an elegantly designed box and they'll pay it without question every month.

Chrome users are the best because their close relationship with Google shows they've already given up on the whole concept of privacy and will gladly supply you with any information you ask for. Plus, all you have to do is tell them you're not evil and not only will they allow you to do whatever you want no matter how evil it is, they'll actually defend your actions to others!

Clearly browser choice is and should be a significant factor in the lending business.

Re:Repeat after me (1, Redundant)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123938)

Or it could be that firefox users tend to work in the tech field, a field with notoriously short and unreliable job durations. It could be that firefox users are rated lower due to more frequent (if short) bouts of unemployment.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Funny)

morari (1080535) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123816)

It is sometimes. For example, they should be charging the Safari users more, as those Mac fanboys will pay anything if it's marketed right.

I wonder (4, Interesting)

amundb (1830912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123378)

What the interest rate for IE was?

Re:I wonder (3, Interesting)

kenrblan (1388237) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123474)

I would expect it to be higher because there is a good chance the person using IE is doing so on a computer at work without any other option. Thus, they can afford to be screwed since they have a job. The other case is that they are oblivious to danger and can be easily lead, making them an excellent mark.

Note: I am not saying these are my personal beliefs on the matter, just the possible reasoning in play.

Re:I wonder (4, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123572)

Insurance companies don't worry themselves about indirct causation. They're just concerned with established correlation. If they find that statistically 5'6" tall people are a better credit risk than 6'2" then they'll ask for your height when you apply.

A curious aspect of this is that by adding my mother to my car insurance, my premium went down, even though my usage of the car isn't going to change and the risk remains the same, because statistically men who have a woman on their insurance are less likely to have an accident.

Re:I wonder (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123878)

They're just concerned with established correlation. If they find that statistically 5'6" tall people are a better credit risk than 6'2" then they'll ask for your height when you apply.

Exactly. Even if you're the most financially prudent giant on Earth, if they're dealing with thousands of people they'll gain overall by betting the way the correlation lies.

Re:I wonder (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123978)

It's just like any other risk assessment on the planet. When they have access to a monstrous amount of data, even the most obscure, apparently completely unrelated facts can cause a change in their statistics. They don't have to justify them. They don't even have to claim to have any understanding of them, they just look at the numbers which do not lie, and trust them and set their rates accordingly.

I'd be surprised if they weren't doing this, it'd be bad business. And in a business where you're handing millions (or billions) of dollars, that quirky effect that for unknown reasons shifts the balance by even 0.1 % is HUGE. And they'll take advantage of it, every single time.

Re:I wonder (5, Informative)

Rary (566291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123654)

What the interest rate for IE was?

I just tried this with the three browsers I currently have installed. Firefox and Chrome both offered me 3.50%, while IE8 offered me 2.30%. Firefox also used a completely different style sheet than both IE8 and Chrome.

Re:I wonder (1)

AVee (557523) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123848)

Those numbers are different from the ones in the article. So it's not (just) the browser which is making the difference. Perhaps the rates are just random to give you that good old 'Wow, that's even beter' feeling. Or maybe they are using al sorts of other information the browsers might leak, your default browser for instance is more likely to have that advertising cookie they use to identify you.

Re:I wonder (3, Informative)

jittles (1613415) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123936)

Such as the location that they are able to resolve via your IP address? I bet that has a huge effect on the rates they provide.

Oh, come on (0, Flamebait)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123384)

First of all, if this were an indicator, it would seem logical that Internet Explorer users would trend lower incomes than anyone else. Anyone educated enough to even be using an alternate browser on a PC is probably educated enough to be making more money than your run-of-the-mill user. At least with Safari it kind of makes sense. Anyone using an Apple has enough extra money to waste it on hipster cred.

Of course these opinions are soley those of a Firefox user who likely makes considerably more than the average schlub who's surfing the internet for porn between his shifts at Denney's.

Re:Oh, come on (4, Funny)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123452)

I work at IHOP you insensitive clod!

Re:Oh, come on (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123626)

who's surfing the internet for gay porn

I work at IHOP you insensitive clod!

Fixed it for you.

Re:Oh, come on (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123488)

Wow. Browser-based elitism in an article about browser-based interest rates.

Inclination towards technology isn't an indicator of education. I know many people who are professionals in various fields and just use their laptop for browsing, Facebook, and light gaming. These are people making at least double what I'm making in IT, and they're on Internet Explorer.

And then there's the starving artists out there on Macs....

Re:Oh, come on (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123574)

Obviously you fail to understand how my superior browser makes me a better human being than you. As such, I will disregard the rest of your post. It is likely just to bore me, or possibly even lead to a headache. When you realize the error of your ways, and are willing to admit that I am right in this and all things, I will once again indulge you.

Re:Oh, come on (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123490)

I don't know, I work on Wall St with a whole bunch of multimillionaires, they all use IE. I would say IE is kind of like the Republican Party, it owns the upper and lower classes, but very little of the middle class.

Re:Oh, come on (4, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123668)

I would guess that IE trends higher is the less tech savvy regardless of income or education. It's those with tech knowledge that deviate from it (not in all cases, but the majority).

Re:Oh, come on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123502)

I don't know that Internet Explorer would trend lower incomes. My wife's family (only her sister has a degree past high school) are more than happy to use Firefox, lower privledged accounts, etc while my family (M.D., CPA, Ph.D., and Bachelors working on Master's) all uses Internet Explorer when on Windows (recently two of them purchased MacBook Pro's).

Re:Oh, come on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123632)

>> (recently two of them purchased MacBook Pro's)

Ah... so, merely being intelligent was not enough for them. They are gunning for pseudo-intellectualism now!!

Re:Oh, come on (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123510)

Fortunately, they don't have to go on what "seems logical". They have actual data. Science at work! Of course, being aware of the measurement in this case will change it for many users. (Quantum analogies at work!)

Re:Oh, come on (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123700)

Unless the awareness reinforces the trend. Maybe Firefox users are split between intelligent users who have made an informed choice and script kiddies who like playing with plugins. Perhaps it's integral to the process that the intelligent users are going to discover the differences and buy their insurance using Chrome, so the awareness reinforces rather than destroys the trend. Or maybe the thing was just badly scripted or the guy had some of the scripts cached and it actually doesn't make any difference.

Re:Oh, come on (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123734)

Oh, and I should add, all of the above becomes moot the second someone writes a script to find the best deals that spoofs various user agents and picks the lowest quote on that basis.

Re:Oh, come on (1)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123552)

First of all, if this were an indicator, it would seem logical that Internet Explorer users would trend lower incomes than anyone else.

Not necessarily. Obviously no one is foolish enough to think that there is a causal relationship between browser usage and creditworthiness, so one must wonder what variables are likely to co-vary and generate this apparent correlation (if real). It may be as simple as "People who use alternative browsers are, on average, significantly younger than people who use IE." While your guesstimate about income may be true among individuals of the same age ( I'm not going to guarantee that it's accurate -- there are probably a lot of highly-educated grad students and postdocs using alternative browsers and living on Kraft Dinner while the rest of their age cohort are drawing six figures as plumbers), those differences may be swamped by the differences in ages between the two groups.

Older people (in general) have a longer employment track record, more community ties, more assets, and greater overall financial stability. Younger people - even high-income younger people - are more likely to make poor financial choice and more likely to default on loans. And if they do get into a financial bind, they're more likely to ditch the car than to give up the house.

Re:Oh, come on (3, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123712)

It seems just asking for your age would be a better way of determining... well, your age.

Re:Oh, come on (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123764)

So the advertisement should have a little form on it and only present the rate after the age is filled in?

Re:Oh, come on (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123608)

Except for all of the moms, aunts, friends, etc. of those educated people who have a "magic box" that said educated person set up for them. It runs this thing called "the Internets". And I know *MY* mom/aunt/friends/etc. aren't flush with cash. That's generally the reason they are running on cobbled together Linux boxes in the first place.

Re:Oh, come on (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34124006)

it would seem logical that Internet Explorer users would trend lower incomes than anyone else. Anyone educated enough to even be using an alternate browser on a PC is probably educated enough to be making more money than your run-of-the-mill user.
these opinions are those of a Firefox user who likely makes considerably more than the average schlub who's surfing the internet for porn between his shifts at Denney's.

While the geek surfs for porn from his cubicle at work?

It would seem more reasonable to assume that the IE user is middle class, somewhat older than others surfing the web, perhaps. More likely to be married, more likely to have kids. He - or she - has other expenses and better things to do. The latest tech, the latest gadget is no longer an obsession.

You can make a very good living serving that market, and the risks are slight.

Damn (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123406)

Now I wish I'd set up my car insurance on my own machine rather than while at my mum's house.

Re:Damn (2, Interesting)

aliquis (678370) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123722)

Just Google for it, clearly Google search robots must get the best rates so that more people will follow the links.

IE6 (1)

acooks (663747) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123412)

What rate did they offer for IE6?

Surely that must be good indicator for negligent behaviour?

Re:IE6 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123430)

What rate did they offer for IE6?

Surely that must be good indicator for negligent behaviour?

Actually, since the bulk of people still on IE6 are locked-in due to corporate policy, you could just as easily assume they'd be shown the lowest rate, as they're likely to have a stable, corporate job.

Re:IE6 (5, Funny)

Dexy (1751176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123442)

I got a quote for -£240 using Lynx

Re:IE6 (4, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123634)

Next thing you will get a visit from the fraud squad.

Same as the guy which used Lynx to donate to a charity campaign in the UK a few years back.

The "security pros" providing security solutions t the donation site decided that it is being hacked (well, he did play a bit with various URLs to get past some particularly stupid javascript based submit code).


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123422)

But it's up now.

Really? (0, Redundant)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123426)

You base your assumptions that:
1. the browser is telling the truth about the user agent.
2. the browser used it the one the customer uses regularly.
3. your eveluation about "risky" browser is correct.
4. all this makes some kind of sense.

STATISTICS! (3, Informative)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123622)

Insurance is a game of statistics. Yes, some browsers lie in their user agent string. Yes, sometimes people use other people's browsers. But MOST browsers are what they say they are, MOST people use their own machine pretty regularly, and if the insurance company is really doing this (which I take no position on), then you can bet they have statistics to back up their belief that there's a difference in insurance risk, ON AVERAGE, between users of different browsers.

The insurance company couldn't care less if the correlation holds true for every single instance. They know that it doesn't, in fact. But if it holds true often enough, then they can use that data to offer some people a better price on the insurance, because they're statistically less likely to file a claim.


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34124000)

The question is, how exactly did they manage to make a correlation between claims and the browser used to begin with?

An interesting problem (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123428)

It's always been an interesting problem with insurance. If they can find some data that reliably correlates to account performance why not use it? Does it matter if it's logical so long as it's true and accurate (note I'm not saying that these particular data are)? Of course if news of certain criterion gets out and causes enough of an outcry to loose them money then they'll stop using it. They are a business after all.

On the other hand the theory behind insurance (not behind insurance companies mind you) is to pool high cost but low probability risk so that everyone chips in a little in the the chance that they might be one of the few who need help. With this principle the idea is to spread out the burden. As companies get more and more accurate predictors of your individual risk and charge you accordingly they start to defeat the entire purpose of insurance. Think of what the end state of a perfectly predictive set of data would be. Everyone pays for exactly what they will cost, in other words it's not insurance at all.

Its the USERAGENT string (4, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123464)

Here is a comment from the article. I have not tested this.

bearymore::: ""Wow! I have a Firefox addon which spoofs the user agent. When I go to Capitalone with the default Firefox as the user agent I get 3.50%. When set the addon to tell Capitalone I'm using Internet Explorer, I get 2.70%. When I switch back to Firefox, I get 3.50% again. Keep in mind, I'm using the same browser and simply opening the site in different tabs""

So either deliberate or incredibly bad coding for a financial site.

Re:Its the USERAGENT string (2, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123566)

This opens up a very interesting can of worms. I wonder how many other companies selling products that vary on a per-customer basis are using this information? Car insurance is another one that springs to mind, particularly if you live in a part of the world where it's compulsory.

Re:Its the USERAGENT string (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123602)

Some online companies were caught out a few years back where they were doing something similar. If it detected you had bought from the site before it wouldn't offer discounts, but if you hadn't then it continued to offer you discounts. /. story IIRC.

Re:Its the USERAGENT string (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123584)

So either deliberate or incredibly bad coding for a financial site.

Or incredibly deliberate bad coding.

Re:Its the USERAGENT string (3, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123850)

So either deliberate or incredibly bad coding for a financial site.

Or incredibly deliberate bad coding.

That sentence stub made my brain incredibly deliberately fall out of my ears.

Re:Its the USERAGENT string (1)

UID30 (176734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123688)

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained through incompetence.
- Hanlon, Heinlein, whoever...

IE? (1)

balaband (1286038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123468)

So what, IE users are not allowed to buy cars?

It figures they seem like a liability, because they are accustomed to their machines crashing

JavaScript (5, Interesting)

Lumbre (1822486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123498)

Just turn JavaScript off and you'll get the higher 3.50% every time ...

Seems like something's up with their variables; A different cg variable causes a different rate for the same zip code.

This calls for a ... (5, Interesting)

contra_mundi (1362297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123514)

This calls for a Firefox add-on or greasemonkey script that will take such pages, request the pages with different user-agents, and compare the resulting pages for differences. If the only difference is a single numerical value, it should be easy enough to catch. And then print it to the user in a neat table or graph.

AdBlock? (1)

elhondo (545224) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123530)

I wonder if this correlation has anything to do with AdBlock? Maybe IE users see a lot of ads competing on rate, while Firefox users don't. Or maybe Firefox users pay off their car early and aren't as profitable....

And it is 20% if you use Lynx. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123570)

I mean if you use Lynx you must be a bearded freak living in your parents basement.

"Dear literal net, yes I know it will now work with Lynx"

One data point for each browser (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123636)

From the text of the email, it seems that the user launched the site once in each browser. The quote was probably changing each time the page loaded (according to some actuarial variable, intentional randomness to see how people reacted to different prices, or a bug in the software making the quote) completely independently of the browser choice.

Re:One data point for each browser (1)

DarthBender (1071972) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123798)

Most likely. If he tried it a few times and on another computer, or even better with a different ip address, I would guess that he would get different results.

I've noticed with travel sites that I'll get one rate on a flight/hotel then after searching around more and coming back to the desired one the price will have increased. At which point I call a friend, he searches and gets the original lower price.

Re:One data point for each browser (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123944)

Followup comments say that using user agent switcher someone else was able to reliably switch the rate at will by switching the user agent string for Firefox.

Software engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123670)

Software engineers are prone to lapsing into bad bill paying habits, more out of negligence than need.

Software engineers are more likely to use Firefox than IE.

Don't ask how I know.

HTTP_USER_AGENT also passes operating system info (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123692)

they could use that information to find people using apple products. and charge such people 9.5%. as long as the car was titanium white, such people would happily purchase at that rate

Re:HTTP_USER_AGENT also passes operating system in (1)

david.emery (127135) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123896)

And if the information returned Internet Explorer, could they offer a lower rate, believing that the car being purchased will be in the shop more often?

Re:HTTP_USER_AGENT also passes operating system in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123976)

Any "Weakest Link" jokes you'd like to make, as long as you're hitting these phenomena at the height of their popularity?

Customers of large banks pay more for car loans (1)

saurongt (1639029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123752)

I don't understand why anyone still goes to large banks for loans or savings instead of community banks and credit unions. The corporations will nearly always give you a worse deal. And have fun talking to the customer service reps who live half a world away. My checking account is truly free and it earns me interest, like it should. And my credit card has 10% APR. Big banks are parasites. Vote with your wallet, people, it's not that hard!

maybe it's just a standards compliance issue (5, Funny)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123768)

Technically, i think the W3C standards for HTML 4.0 require a 3.5% interest rate. The other browsers are just providing proprietary rates in a standards breaking battle of oneupmanship. I think HTML 5 attempts to address this issue with the new heavily scriptable InterestCanvas element.

I think there's more too this. (1)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123792)

Maybe it is just the tinfoil hat person inside of me, but I wonder if there's more to it than just risk assessment. Consider the fact that each browser maker has a vested interest in preferential treatment by websites. ATM, the most hotly contested treatment has to do with how the website looks in a particular browser(ever wonder why Facebook runs faster in IE?). But as we move towards more standards compliant browsers, that area will be slowing diminishing(especially if IE6 goes the way of the Dodo bird). So what's next? What's going to drive users to use one browser over another, besides being pre-installed on particular OSs & devices? What about having special deals for those that use their browser? This becomes especially true if the browser maker also can control how the user finds a vendor's product like Google & M$ can. All it would take from Google is to put a vendor 1st in a search for a car loan and for the bank to check which browser for someone to get a better rate just for using Chrome.

If true, it is stupid (2, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123796)

While it may be true that users of different browsers tend to have varying levels of credit worthiness that tracks to what browser they use, this creditworthiness will be more clearly (and accurately) reflected by other criteria. As an example, while people with a particualar credit score range may be more likely to select a particular browser, it seems improbable to me that people who select a particular browser are more or less likely to default on debt than people with the same credit score who select a different browser.

Room for negotiation (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123806)

Now, at least we know there is room for negotiation on the interest rates.
Don't pay more if you don't have to.

Wheres the "Ask but don't tell" add-on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123820)

Dammit and I used FF to apply for a car loan. Turned down, naturally, because I leaned the other way.

Capital One is famous for this (5, Informative)

lashwhip76 (1850478) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123824)

Used to work there. Capital One has done this for many, many years. They used to send snail mailers with different rates to random households in the same neighborhood. The CEO is one of the early proponents of experimental marketing.

Maybe an A/B test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123860)

One commenter says:

"it sounds like an A/B test. when you arrive at the site, you're assigned a random rate. they do this because they want to be able to see how customers respond to price increases, decreases, special offers, webpage designs, etc.

after your first arrival, every following time you reload or return to the site, you'll see the same rate, since you'll keep the persistent cookie. if you delete your cookies and see the same results every time, there could still be other means for them to be sure it's you, so there's a chance they're using those tricks (flash cookies, for instance). reinstalling the browser may not even fix this.

of course it's possible they're distinguishing by user agent, but i think it's very unlikely."

Sounds plausible.

That's how it works (3, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123886)

The entire insurance industry is based on the principle of retaliation against customers who cost the company money and rewards for those who dutifully pay more than they claim. Any statistical basis they can use to figure out which customer is which ahead of time... they'll use. The only ones they (usually) won't use are those prohibited by law; instead they look for some other factor that correlates strongly, and use that instead. So if they aren't allowed to use race, they'll use neighborhood... if they aren't allowed to use neighborhood, they'll look for something else. Maybe ISP, or IP address block, or OS, or.... browser. They don't care, as long as there's a good correlation. It's not that they hate Firefox users, any more than they hate people of a particular race or ethnic group or neighborhood or religion or credit score or driving record... they just don't care. Like any "good capitalist" they want to maximize profit.

From an (ex) Capital One employee (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34123932)

I just spoke to my wife, who spent 10 years working for Capital One at their corporate headquarters in Richmond (*). When I mentioned the gist of the story to her, her response was "I believe it", which actually floored me as I am always telling her about various conspiracy stories I see online. She immediately offered up that they use various bits of financial information to determine what % interest rate you would be charged and suggested that the Safari users would be seen as having more money (as Mac owners) and hence a lower risk.

(*) As an aside, if you haven't been to the Capital One campus in Richmond [google.com] then you are missing out. The selection of restaurants is amazing. They have outdoor basketball and volleyball courts. And they even have a frickin' treehouse where you can go and sit outside with your laptop and do your work via Wi-Fi. The downside is that corporate doesn't instill loyalty as pretty well everyone in Richmond either knows someone who was downsized from Capital One, or is downsized themselves.

The only better work conditions nearby would be CarMax, which for their staff they don't offer fixed length vacations. You get to choose how long you take off each year - they assume that if you are professional enough to do your job that you are professional enough to know when your job is done!

Internet Explorer experiment (1)

paxcoder (1222556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123956)

"I used IE6, and I didn't get a rate. In fact, i don't think the page exists at all. This may be fake"

Firefox is often used by the risk-averse (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123968)

What rates did lynx/elinks garner? What about IE 6? Does faking a useragent do enough?

My personal opinion (4, Funny)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34123974)

After reading about this, I am completely {outraged}{amused}{indifferent}{turned on} by this practice.

Javascript error. Aborting script.

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