With a growing number of Albertans raising concerns about their auto insurance and rising premiums, the provincial government is taking steps to get more public feedback on how the system can be improved.
On Tuesday, the UCP announced it had launched an online survey to “help identify improvements to Alberta’s automobile insurance system.”
The move comes after the government launched a review of the system in the fall that aims to address “pressing issues such as escalating costs and to develop solutions that will ensure affordable, accessible and sustainable auto insurance options for the long term.”
Nearly six months ago, the UCP confirmed it would not continue to limit auto insurance providers to a maximum five per cent annual rate hike as the previous government had done.
“Our government will allow the Automobile Insurance Rate Board to fulfill its mandate in setting auto insurance rates,” Charlotte Taillon, acting press secretary for Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, wrote to Global News in an email at the time. “We believe this independent board is best positioned to evaluate the health of the insurance market and we respect their expertise and experience in the field.
“To be clear, companies still must go through the rate board to justify increases.”
Since that time, Global News has learned of widespread hikes to premiums, and just last month, the Automobile Insurance Rate Board confirmed 27 insurers operating in the province were granted rate hikes in recent months, ranging from less than one per cent to almost 30 per cent for basic coverage on private passenger vehicles.
Just before Christmas, Finance Minister Travis Toews acknowledged Albertans are paying some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country and noted that they are also having trouble getting key protections like comprehensive and collision coverage.
However, Toews said he does not believe the previous NDP government’s five per cent annual cap on rate increases was a long-term solution, calling it “a Band-Aid on a wound that was festering” and that the cap only served to force insurers to seek savings by doing things like refusing critical protections to some consumers.
In a news release on Tuesday, the chair of the province’s Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee said “Albertans, service providers and other relevant stakeholders” should be part of a potential remedy for the problem.
“A thorough understanding of consumer and industry needs will help ensure our recommendations to the government are realistic and reflective of the marketplace as a whole,” Chris Daniel said.
The committee that Daniel chairs has been asked to explore potential options before making recommendations to the government.
The committee has been asked to adhere to a number of principles as it completes its work:
· Fair, accessible and affordable automobile insurance for Albertans
· Timely and appropriate outcomes when claims are made
· A private-sector delivery model for automobile insurance
· A viable and sustainable automobile insurance system
The survey will be open to the public until March 6. Click here to take the survey.
READ MORE: 6 ways to cut your auto insurance rate
The advisory committee is set to deliver its recommendations in June.
–With files from The Canadian Press’ Dean Bennett