The excerpted article was written and updated by Colin Brown | Vancouver Sun

B.C. motorists are held hostage when it comes to basic vehicle insurance. That’s unfortunate, since rates in our province are among the highest in Canada. For instance, we pay considerably more for comparable insurance than our neighbours in Alberta.

Compounding our affordability woes, ICBC hiked basic rates in April to stem mounting financial losses. (We all remember the colourful words of Attorney-General David Eby, who described the corporation as a “financial dumpster fire”.) As a driver myself, any increase hurts the wallet. Plus, new drivers will pay even more when ICBC rolls out a new risk model in September.

We all want a better price. This is, after all, an infamously expensive place to live. A survey recently conducted by local pollsters Research Co. confirms what I have long suspected: More than three-quarters of British Columbians (78 per cent) want more choice in the auto insurance market.

The good news is that British Columbians do have a choice when it comes to optional insurance: the private sector. Private insurers have the potential to offer more choice, more savings and a better overall insurance experience.

But as ICBC works to regain traction, some optional insurance companies are being inconsistent in their offerings. Rather than being part of the solution, some chose to go dormant — hiding out during this time of uncertainty. In fact, there was a period last summer when two of the biggest providers in our market were not writing new policies because market conditions weren’t favourable.

But we don’t just need competition, we need better competition. Unfortunately, some optional providers have little knowledge of our market — making it difficult to tailor products to our west coast lifestyle. And we know for a fact that drivers do want a better product: The majority polled indicate a desire for better optional vehicle coverage (71 per cent), and a better product overall (67 per cent).

That’s where a gap currently exists. To be attractive to consumers, the private sector should help motorists save money by offering discounts for progressive consumer choices like energy-efficient vehicles, or technologically advanced safety features like automatic braking systems and lane departure warnings. The private sector would also do well to fill the current gap in niche coverage that includes luxury, recreational, collector and fleet vehicles.

While ICBC conducts test after test to evaluate new technologies, the private sector has an opportunity to lead the charge by rewarding new drivers who choose to use smart-phone monitoring solutions, or by offering discounts for using voluntary distracted driving apps. (And they should avoid the temptation to simply punish less-than-perfect drivers with surcharges.) The crown corporation unfortunately lags behind in offering these forward-thinking innovations, which could save consumers money while making the roads safer for everyone. Surely, offering incentives to prevent accidents is preferable to merely adding punitive surcharges after the fact?

So, as we look forward to smoother roads ahead, let this be a challenge to the private sector: drivers deserve better choices for optional coverage. Ideally, some of those intelligent options will come from homegrown, B.C. companies that know our market.

I’ll leave you with a sneak peek at what’s on the horizon: Remember Canadian Direct Insurance? I was proud to be part of its executive leadership team, prior to its acquisition. That local leadership team plans to continue the mission to bring more choice, more savings and a better insurance experience to B.C. motorists under a new corporate banner.

As a fellow driver, I believe British Columbians deserve better. Stay tuned.

With more than 40 years of experience in B.C.’s insurance sector, Colin Brown helped establish the operational framework for ICBC, before serving as its chief underwriter in the 1990s. He then served as Canadian Direct Insurance’s chief operating officer until the company’s acquisition in 2015.

Source: Vancouver Sun

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