At Capital One, Different Browsers = Different Interest Rates

This news story comes straight from the "We couldn't make this up" file. It's a well known fact that banks offer different interest rates to different customers depending on the applicant's credit history, credit rating, and annual income. Somewhere along the line, one's choice of browser was apparently slipped into the mix. Would-be borrowers who visit Capital One's auto loan calculator are presented with a range of rates; we've got the screenshots below to prove it.

That's Firefox 3.6.12 on the upper left, Internet Explorer 8.0.6001.18943 on the upper right. Chrome 7.0.517.41 is lower left, Opera 10.63 (Build 3516) on the lower right. You might think this is a bug or a problem with the flash app, but a commenter at claims to have been a business analyst for Capital One. She writes: "Old news. I used to be a business analyst for Capital One and this has been going on for awhile.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...They actually do give different rates based upon browser- this isn't a [marketing] test.

It doesn't seem impossible that this is happening, but it's hard to see how browser usage cohesively maps against different sorts of customers, especially as browser market share changes over time. Six years ago, using Mozilla Firefox was the 'in' thing to do, whether you used it because you felt it was a flatly superior product, or because you wanted to support OSS. Now that FireFox has been on the market for years and established itself, what does it predict? Is Chrome the new product for conscientious car owners who obey traffic instructions, walk as much as possible to minimize their impact on the environment, and would rather own a Prius than a Corvette? If so, we feel bad for the poor users stuck on IE6.

The anecdotal comments from a forum member or two aren't enough to convince us this is definitely true, but it's an intriguing question. Car color (red) has been known to affect vehicle insurance rates, particularly in the case of higher-end sports cars. If any of you have seen this before on different websites, or have knowledge of seemingly strange variables that banks, insurance companies, or credit unions pay attention to, weigh in and let us know. If our choice in video cards or processors matter to the Powers That Be, we'd sorta like to know.