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B.C. Opposition cries foul over timing of ICBC rebate cheques

Click to play video 'New controversy over ICBC rebates' New controversy over ICBC rebates
The Liberal opposition is blasting the NDP government for waiting until next year before issuing drivers rebate cheques connected to its new "enhanced care" changes. Ted Chernecki reports – Aug 31, 2020

ICBC is looking for a company to print and mail rebate cheques to millions of British Columbians.

In a request for proposals, the public insurer states it is looking to issue about 2.9 million customers a one-time enhanced care refund cheque between May and July of next year, with the remainder being completed by August.

The rebate is coming as the province shifts into a no fault, or enhanced care, model of auto insurance.

The province has promised the shift will lead to a substantial savings for all drivers and those savings should be passed on to ICBC customers.

“Issuing millions of refunds within a short timeframe is a significant undertaking so ICBC is seeking a vendor to help issue the refunds to customers along with a personalized letter explaining how their refund was calculated,” ICBC said in a statement.

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“ICBC anticipates the majority of refunds and letters will be sent out to customers between May and July, 2021.”

Click to play video 'The provincial government is getting ready to send millions of B.C. drivers a rebate cheque from ICBC next May.' The provincial government is getting ready to send millions of B.C. drivers a rebate cheque from ICBC next May.
The provincial government is getting ready to send millions of B.C. drivers a rebate cheque from ICBC next May – Jul 26, 2020

The rebate will be based on what is owed after May 1, 2021. For example, if a driver renews a policy on November 1, 2020, they will will receive a rebate for the remaining six months of the policy. If a driver pays by credit card for the entire year, then the rebate will automatically be returned to the card. Those paying by cash, debit or cheque for the entire year will receive a rebate cheque in the mail.

The B.C. Liberals say the government’s decision to issue ICBC rebate cheques to drivers is a calculated move, as many will be delivered just weeks ahead of the next scheduled provincial election in October, 2021.

“What we found is basically ICBC is trying to hire a company to mail out rebate cheques in and around a potential spring election or right before a fall election 2021,” Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.

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“And this is absolutely ridiculous. British Columbians need help today.”

The BC Liberals have been asking the province to provide a rebate to cover perceived savings due to the ongoing pandemic. The province is still reviewing the economic impacts of the ongoing crisis.

The public insurer has seen a drop off in crashes over the past seven months but has also seen a decrease in investment revenue and some cancellations due to COVID-19.

ICBC has said it saved $158 million from fewer crashes in the first six weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johal said drivers in Manitoba and Ontario have already received rebate cheques.

Click to play video 'British Columbians will not see ICBC rebates during COVID-19 crisis' British Columbians will not see ICBC rebates during COVID-19 crisis
British Columbians will not see ICBC rebates during COVID-19 crisis – Aug 11, 2020

Read more: ICBC phone, email renewals to continue, as other COVID-19 measures expire

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B.C. Attorney General David Eby said earlier this month that ICBC’s finances remain fragile.

“I’ve asked British Columbians, as best as possible, to be patient. I know these are difficult times, but the public insurer’s finances are very fragile and issuing a rebate cheque right now would not be a responsible thing to do until we know where these finances are going to land as a result of the pandemic,” Eby said.

Read more: B.C.’s 2019-20 budget battered by COVID-19, deficit expected to climb further

Johal said the government and ICBC are just hoping the public doesn’t ask too many questions.

“They should be asking questions and there should be a rebate today,” Johal told Global News.

“And now any savings that ICBC has had this year should be returned to consumers.”