ICBC premiums not changing until at least next year

ICBC is reporting substantial losses during COVID-19, despite saying a decrease in claims has resulted in $158 million dollars in savings. Our reporter Ashley Burr speaks with a public policy researcher who says the numbers don't add up.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — ICBC will wait 10 months, until the end of the fiscal year, before assessing the impact of COVID-19 and whether the corporation can offer rebates to customers, Attorney General David Eby said Thursday.

According to ICBC, more than 100,000 drivers have decreased their insurance coverage during the pandemic.

A review of ICBC’s financial situation since the start of the provincial state of emergency shows collisions are way down, leading to fewer claims and more than $150 million in savings.

However, ICBC’s investments aren’t stable, If markets drop further, the public insurer — with almost no capital reserves to withstand fluctuations and volatility in the markets —  could more than a billion dollars.

“Some of this has already been seen at the end of ICBC’s 2019-20 fiscal year, and early indications suggest the impact could exceed $1 billion in fiscal 2020-21, depending on the length and scope of the global market downturn,” according to an ICBC release.

However, Eby said if ICBC has a surplus at the end of the fiscal year, the money will go back to the benefit of drivers in some way — a rate cut, a one-time rebate, or a reduction of loss.

“In the meantime, we’re focused on supporting people through payment deferrals and making it easier for people to cancel or change their insurance, and on bringing in Enhanced Care coverage next year to save people an average of $400 on their insurance,” Eby said.

ICBC’s review covered about six weeks, after the provincial state of emergency was first declared and people were advised to stay home (March 15 to May 2).

It found ICBC opened 46 per cent fewer accident claims (including those for both damages to vehicles and for injuries) compared to the same time last year, with an average weekly reduction of 7,200 claims.

However, claim numbers are on the rise again as more vehicles return to B.C. roads, according to ICBC.

The review also found more than 100,000 customers cancelled their policies, while another 57,500 or lowered their rate class, resulting in a projected $283-million decline in written insurance premiums compared to what would normally be received for that period.

“ICBC waiving cancellation and re-plating fees alone during the pandemic has saved customers around $5 million, and we will continue to work with those drivers facing financial hardship,” said Nicolas Jimenez, ICBC president and CEO.

“We’re committed to delivering essential services and ensuring the safety of our customers, employees and partners. And given these uncertain times, we have a responsibility to consider many factors when making long-term decisions that could adversely affect ICBC’s bottom line – and customers’ insurance premiums – in the future.”

ICBC is to implement an average 20-per-ent rate reduction in 2021, while there was no basic rate change this year.

ICBC previously waived cancellation and re-plating fees, provided 90-day deferrals and helped customers to cancel or change their coverage at no charge.

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