British Columbians who let a friend or family member occasionally drive their car will be on the hook for a new fee next year.
The measure, which is being labelled as a “cash grab” by critics, was included in an ICBC rate overhaul approved by the BC Utilities Commission on Friday.
The new $50 fee is called “unlisted driver protection,” and the public insurer is recommending that anyone who hands the keys over to a driver not listed on their policy to buy it.
ICBC says it’s meant to apply to people who lend their vehicle out fewer than 12 times a year. And not picking it up could be expensive. Should a driver not on the policy crash an unprotected vehicle, the owner could be left liable for thousands of dollars.
The Crown corporation says there will be exemptions for extraordinary situations such as medical emergencies.
“I think it’s kind of punitive. It looks like a money grab to me — it’s almost like the government is starting a protection racket,” said ICBC policy expert Richard McCandless.
The new unlicenced driver protection measure was included in the massive change to ICBC’s rate structures the NDP government announced this summer.
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That overhaul was meant to help shore up ICBC’s finances while increasing road safety by rewarding safer drivers and punishing “bad” drivers.
The corporation says the new structure — and the new fee — will make the system more fair.
“If we look at the number of crashes that are caused by people who are borrowing someone else’s car, that’s like one-in-five,” said ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan.
“So 20 per cent of crashes are caused by someone who is not the registered owner.”
The opposition BC Liberals wasted no time in targeting the new fee, calling it a symbol of how the NDP government is downloading costs onto consumers.
“Clearly all of us are going to be paying a lot more for auto insurance,” said BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
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ICBC currently insures more than 2.4-million passenger vehicles. If all of those policyholders purchased the new protection, it would net the corporation about $120 million every year.
But the insurer denies the move is being done to pad the bottom line, arguing that cash will be returned to drivers elsewhere.
“All of it is revenue neutral. ICBC will not be taking any more money,” said Linsangan.
In addition to the unlisted driver protection premium, ICBC is also adding a new fee for vehicles with “Learner” drivers under the province’s graduated licensing program.
The corporation says the premium, which will cost between $130 and $230 per year, is meant to reflect the added risk associated with new drivers.
However, under the new premium, learner drivers who do get into a crash will not have that accident held on their insurance record for 10 years as a normal driver would.