B.C. Attorney General David Eby introduces former NDP cabinet minister Joy MacPhail as chair of the ICBC board, Aug. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: How to get the best deal on your ICBC car insurance

ICBC slowly being dragged into the 21st century

A U.S. insurance company is running amusing TV ads where a 1970s-era couple call up a page on the “information superhighway.” When it finally loads, all they get is a phone number.

In another scene, they jump in their AMC Gremlin and head out to renew their car insurance. “Should be back in two hours,” the mullet-haired driver says on his CB radio.

I was reminded of these commercials while discussing with Attorney General David Eby the latest evolution of our great 1970s public utility, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. The topic was competition for collision and other optional coverage, and how that works – or doesn’t work.

Eby began by denying there is any obstacle for private insurers to compete for optional coverage, which he has argued is the main cause of big increases being faced by new drivers. Private insurers insist there is, and by the end of our chat, Eby was inclined to agree.

Eby’s overhaul of ICBC rates took effect in September, after he vowed to douse the “dumpster fire” of billion-dollar deficits. Contrary to political claims, this is no longer inflated by government scooping revenues. That ended a few years ago, as deficits ballooned due to soaring crash rates, injury awards and legal costs. Basic rates are going up as much as 12 per cent for new drivers, and there are new procedures you’ll face when you go to renew your insurance.

I’ll explain the competition problem by describing how to shop around to see if you can get a better deal on optional coverage than ICBC offers. First, do a web search for “ICBC driver abstract,” to find where you can have your driving history and claims record emailed to you.

If you don’t use a computer, you can call 1-800-663-3051 and have it mailed or faxed to you. (Eby repeatedly told me it’s easy to fax your driver record to an insurance company to get a quote. I reminded him that faxes are no longer an option for most of us.)

RELATED: New drivers paying most for optional insurance, Eby says

RELATED: Drivers can check their ICBC rate with online calculator

You can also have the “abstract” emailed directly from ICBC to a private insurer, if you can find one. Again, the “information superhighway” produces a few search results, but as the Insurance Bureau of Canada reports, there are only a couple of private companies offering meaningful competition in B.C.

Bureau vice-president Aaron Sutherland explained how it looks from an insurance broker’s point of view. Customer walks in, asks for a quote on optional coverage. Chances are he doesn’t have a copy of his driving record in hand, and unlike other provinces, ICBC doesn’t allow competitors to get it directly. Customer either gets coverage on faith, or is asked to retrieve the record and send it in.

The government monopoly controls not only driving records, but geographical accident data, which means private insurers are often steering blindfolded as they take on new customers.

From the driver’s point of view, there aren’t going to be enormous savings here, especially since so few companies attempt to compete with ICBC on unfair terms. Eby assured me that he is concerned about this, and willing to help. But he added that no “policy work” has been done yet.

Sutherland wrote to Eby a year ago, offering to have member companies pay a fee for direct access to ICBC driver information. When I asked him about it, Eby had forgotten about the letter.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tea-rrific wish equals holiday magic

O Christmas Tea at ACT Nov. 21

Charity coat collection for Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge Hyundai launched the campaign Nov. 1

Metro floats proposal for river bus service on the Fraser

Electric vessels would serve Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and other river cities

Being Young: Lost in translation

Learning a second language will always be useful.

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

Maddison Yetman had been looking forward to voting in her first federal election since junior high school

VIDEO: Giants toppled by visiting Hurricanes

Sunday afternoon play at Langley Events Centre saw a team from Lethbridge defeat Vancouver, 6-0

Security camera records hatchet attack on Langley store owner

Target escaped uninjured, but was ‘upset’ by incident

PHOTOS: Snoozing seal pup captures attention at White Rock Pier

Dozens of seals spent the day at White Rock’s iconic structure

VIDEO: Collision in Surrey breaks axle off SUV

Two people were reportedly sent to hospital

Rowing Canada, UVic investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

Lily Copeland says she felt intimidated and trapped by Williams

Cleanup in the works after tanker truck fire leads to oil spill in B.C.’s Peace region

The province said the majority of the spilled oil likely burned away in the fire.

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

Most Read