B.C. Utilities Commission approves waiving ICBC cancellation fees

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Reporter Richard Zussman asks B.C. Premier John Horgan on Wednesday when drivers can expect to see savings on their auto insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia had to wait nearly a week for the independent B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to sign off on waiving insurance cancellation fees.

But ratepayers had to continue to pay the cancellation fee until the change was officially approved late Wednesday.

The change comes into effect on Thursday.

“The BCUC accelerated its review of the application submitted by ICBC and, under provisions of the Utilities Commission Act for expedited review in special circumstance,” a statement from the BCUC reads.

The changes also includes allowing permit fleet customers to suspend their basic insurance and obtain a refund without the need to cancel their Basic insurance.

ICBC is also permitting customers currently insured in certain rate classes to temporarily use their vehicles for delivering food and medical products during the pandemic without charging additional premiums or changing rate classes.

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Last week the public insurer announced plans to waive its $30 policy cancellation fee and $18 re-plating fee for people who choose to cancel their insurance.

“I think the utilities commission role is an important one. We have to make sure that there is an independent body doing the checking on whether this is viable for the corporation,” Premier John Horgan said.

“These are things that have happened in the past, whether it’s with BC Hydro or ICBC. So the commission has a role to play. I am hopeful that they will be accelerating their efforts to make sure that we have these dollars available to people as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: Province mulls waiving ICBC cancellation fees during COVID-19 crisis

It is unclear how many people have cancelled their insurance policy since last week and been required to pay the fee.

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Many British Columbians have seen a substantial shift in their car usage. Some drivers have opted to cancel insurance on vehicles they are not driving during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have opted to switch to a recreational insurance to save money because they no longer commute to work.

Autobody shops have reported a drop in customers but it is unclear whether this has to do with a decrease in crashes.

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“We have seen a drop of 20 per cent on cars coming in and people getting their cars repaired,” Penney Autobody estimator Daryll Co said.

“Before we would have two weeks of reservations, now we take what we get.”

READ MORE: British Columbians can now extend expiring driver’s licence over the phone

How big the impact the coronavirus has had on crashes is still mostly a mystery.

ICBC will not release crash data publicly, but has been asked to produce the data in a report for Attorney General David Eby.

The report is expected to be presented in the next few weeks and will be released to the public.

“Should there be a situation where ICBC is seeing significant surpluses as a result of reduced driving activity due to COVID we would work with the Utilities Commission to make sure there is another set of eyes,” Eby said.

“We are seeing fewer crashes on the road. There is no questions about that. But there are also negative financial impacts and releasing one factor in the absence of others would be misleading to British Columbians. Everyone will get the same information, at the same time.”

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But the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which represents private insurance companies, says ICBC should already be giving money back to drivers through rebates.

Click to play video 'ICBC coronavirus rate relief coming for drivers?' ICBC coronavirus rate relief coming for drivers?
ICBC coronavirus rate relief coming for drivers?

Private insurance companies, which compete on the sale of optional insurance with ICBC, have returned between 10 to 25 per cent of rates to drivers due to a decrease in risk and costs in insurance companies.

“At a time where you have every other insurer in the country finding ways to support their customers, you have seen nothing but delays after delays after delays,” Insurance Bureau of Canada vice-president Aaron Sutherland said.

“ICBC isn’t giving back money because they know they don’t have to. It’s another reason why we have to open up their monopoly.”