B.C. Attorney General David Eby introduces former NDP cabinet minister Joy MacPhail as chair of the ICBC board, Aug. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. Attorney General David Eby introduces former NDP cabinet minister Joy MacPhail as chair of the ICBC board, Aug. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: How to get the best deal on your ICBC car insurance

ICBC slowly being dragged into the 21st century

A U.S. insurance company is running amusing TV ads where a 1970s-era couple call up a page on the “information superhighway.” When it finally loads, all they get is a phone number.

In another scene, they jump in their AMC Gremlin and head out to renew their car insurance. “Should be back in two hours,” the mullet-haired driver says on his CB radio.

I was reminded of these commercials while discussing with Attorney General David Eby the latest evolution of our great 1970s public utility, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. The topic was competition for collision and other optional coverage, and how that works – or doesn’t work.

Eby began by denying there is any obstacle for private insurers to compete for optional coverage, which he has argued is the main cause of big increases being faced by new drivers. Private insurers insist there is, and by the end of our chat, Eby was inclined to agree.

Eby’s overhaul of ICBC rates took effect in September, after he vowed to douse the “dumpster fire” of billion-dollar deficits. Contrary to political claims, this is no longer inflated by government scooping revenues. That ended a few years ago, as deficits ballooned due to soaring crash rates, injury awards and legal costs. Basic rates are going up as much as 12 per cent for new drivers, and there are new procedures you’ll face when you go to renew your insurance.

I’ll explain the competition problem by describing how to shop around to see if you can get a better deal on optional coverage than ICBC offers. First, do a web search for “ICBC driver abstract,” to find where you can have your driving history and claims record emailed to you.

If you don’t use a computer, you can call 1-800-663-3051 and have it mailed or faxed to you. (Eby repeatedly told me it’s easy to fax your driver record to an insurance company to get a quote. I reminded him that faxes are no longer an option for most of us.)

RELATED: New drivers paying most for optional insurance, Eby says

RELATED: Drivers can check their ICBC rate with online calculator

You can also have the “abstract” emailed directly from ICBC to a private insurer, if you can find one. Again, the “information superhighway” produces a few search results, but as the Insurance Bureau of Canada reports, there are only a couple of private companies offering meaningful competition in B.C.

Bureau vice-president Aaron Sutherland explained how it looks from an insurance broker’s point of view. Customer walks in, asks for a quote on optional coverage. Chances are he doesn’t have a copy of his driving record in hand, and unlike other provinces, ICBC doesn’t allow competitors to get it directly. Customer either gets coverage on faith, or is asked to retrieve the record and send it in.

The government monopoly controls not only driving records, but geographical accident data, which means private insurers are often steering blindfolded as they take on new customers.

From the driver’s point of view, there aren’t going to be enormous savings here, especially since so few companies attempt to compete with ICBC on unfair terms. Eby assured me that he is concerned about this, and willing to help. But he added that no “policy work” has been done yet.

Sutherland wrote to Eby a year ago, offering to have member companies pay a fee for direct access to ICBC driver information. When I asked him about it, Eby had forgotten about the letter.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureICBC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Champion Lakes Provincial Park is fun for the whole family and a close place to camp for Greater Trail residents. Discover Camping reservations for provincial parks open Mar. 8. Photo: Jim Bailey
Happy Kootenay campers set to book trips

BC residents can book their favourite close-to-home campground starting Mar. 8 on discovercamping.ca

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Mascot Super Saver Sam sends a socially-distanced high-five to all Kootenay Savings community partners. As part of Kootenay Savings ongoing commitment to giving back to the Kootenays, through good times and challenging times, the credit union has teamed up with their community-minded employees to distribute $9,500 in donations to 17 non profits.Photo: Kootenay Savings
Kootenay Savings gives a boost to non-profits

Employees at each branch picked a non-profit for a $500 gift

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

A pillar of the Trail community, stonemason Bill Di Domenico recently passed away just shy of his 104th birthday. Here are people walking along the stone bleachers he helped construct at Gyro Park. (date unknown) Photos: Submitted
Paying homage to a cherished Trail stonemason

Guglielmo “Bill” Di Domenico recently passed away just months shy of his 104th birthday

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Most Read