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.

BC legislatureICBC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP report woman arrested after ramming police cruiser

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

Axe throwing, road hockey among Salmon Arm food drive festivities

Fill the Pantry event wraps up on Monday, Feb. 17 with day of activities

Salvation Army’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser in Salmon Arm welcomes you

Make community connections while taking a walk and contributing to $35,000 goal

Letter: South Shuswap incorporation a foregone conclusion?

Writer overwhelmed with information at committee meeting

Snapshot: Valentine’s donations to Shuswap organizations

Shuswap SPCA, SAFE Society receive some love from SASCU Insurance

Kelowna’s Family YMCA opens doors on Family Day

The entire day was free for the community

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

South Okanagan woman reflects on prestigious win at Westminster dog show

“Polly” the Scottish deerhound was crowned best in breed and reserve best hound.

Wild weekend results in pair of losses for Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Away games ahead before Feb. 23 contest versus Cents at Shaw Centre

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Sicamous Eagles’ playoff hopes dashed by Storm

Kamloops team wins 7-4 in Feb. 14 contest

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Most Read