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B.C. attorney general ‘nervous’ about setting specific date for online ICBC renewals

Attorney General David Eby speaks about the changes coming to ICBC during a press conference in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday February 6, 2018. Now that those changes are starting to take effect, Eby said on Friday, May 2, 2019 that his ministry will start looking at introducing online insurance sales and renewals.
Attorney General David Eby speaks about the changes coming to ICBC during a press conference in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday February 6, 2018. Now that those changes are starting to take effect, Eby said on Friday, May 2, 2019 that his ministry will start looking at introducing online insurance sales and renewals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The B.C. government is promising to bring online renewals for ICBC insurance but won’t set a specific date for implementation.

Attorney General David Eby has been reluctant to move towards online renewals amidst growing loses at the public insurer and a massive change to the rate structure for drivers.

“We are doing the policy work right now and part of that is working with the brokers to see what role they would have in an online renewal process,” Eby said.

“We would also have to legislate to make it happen. My hope is certainly is that we can point to British Columbians before our mandate is completed, before the next election, that they are able to renew online.”

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British Columbians are set to go to the polls in the fall of 2021. But when asked if he is promising to have online renewals by then, Eby was not so definitive.

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“I would love to say that unequivocally. Having been through the rideshare experience I understand the peril of heading down the path of specific dates,” Eby said.

“I am extremely nervous about giving a specific date given the pitfalls I do not know about that are almost certainly there.”

In the 2016/17 fiscal year, which was 15 months due to fiscal calendar transition, brokers were paid $510 million by ICBC. In 2017/18 brokers were paid $434 million and last fiscal year the bill was $490 million.

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The province has been slow to move on auto renewals saying recently it was not a priority.

The brokers have recently been thrust into a more critical role than before. In September, the insurer started the largest rate overhaul in the company’s history.

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Eby says brokers have been critical to help customers successfully transition to the new model, and they are able to provide important advice and guidance for customers as they renew their insurance, including which discounts they are eligible for, ways to keep their rates as low as possible, and information about how and when they need to list other drivers on their policy.

“Mr. Eby seems to have had a change of heart, considering just last week he said online renewal was a not a priority. I’m sure pressure from British Columbians is forcing a re-think in the AG’s office,” BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.

“The opposition is supportive of any initiative that provides choice, convenience, and drives down cost for B.C. motorists. Working with auto brokers will allow the government to leverage their expertise and experience. We are hoping the government can move on this file as quickly as possible.”

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Optional insurance commission is paid on a sliding scale based on the risk with the top commission set at 19 per cent. The top rate was reduced by the current government from 19.93 per cent.

ICBC’s average optional commissions are down to 15 per cent from 15.5 per cent.

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A move to online renewals would come with additional costs including web infrastructure, software, and a call centre to support customers. Brokers currently provide customer support in over 900 offices across the province.