Heather Rivers · The London Free Press · Posted: Friday, May 16, 2020
For some, the cheque is in the mail; others will have to call their insurance broker to get theirs.
A number of Ontario auto insurers are doling out rebates, reductions and other relief measures to policyholders as claims dry up amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We recognize that many drivers are no longer commuting or using their vehicle as regularly and their premiums should reflect the reduced risk,” said Steve Kee of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which represents Canada’s private home, car and business insurers, in an emailed statement.
But are Ontario drivers being compensated fairly while in isolation?
London lawyer Anna Szczurko, a partner and personal injury lawyer at Siskinds Law Firm, calls the handout “a goodwill/PR gesture,” and says she has questions about how much profit Canadian insurers actually make off auto coverage each year.
“We don’t actually know how much insurance companies earn, which is a bit crazy,” said Szczurko, adding their profits are lumped together with other income in annual reports. “There is no way to look and see how much are profits are in auto insurance, because there is no direct report. I think that fundamentally that is very, very wrong.”
West Region OPP has recorded a 44.5 per cent drop in collisions in their area between March 17 — the day Ontario declared a state of emergency — and May 4, from the same period a year ago. For all OPP-patrolled roads provincewide, crashes are down 56 per cent from a year ago.
And while fatal crashes in West Region are up 9.5 per cent since Jan. 1, year over year, personal injuries are down 29 per cent and property damage is off by 21 per cent, OPP said.
Still, provincial police aren’t attributing the change to the COVID-19 lockdown, just yet.
“Our stats traditionally do fluctuate and we need time to analyze what’s happened before drawing a conclusion,” said West Region OPP spokesperson Derek Rogers.
London police statistics were unavailable.
Kee said insurer rebates, reductions and relief efforts will save Canadian drivers about $600 million, of which roughly half would benefit Ontario drivers, but declined to elaborate or do an interview.
While insurers vary in their approach, measures include “stay-at-home” payments, one-time rebates and rate reductions. Some offer as much as 75 per cent off premiums to policyholders who park and store their cars for the duration.
Gore Mutual Insurance, for example, is offering an automatic, one-time payment equivalent to 20 per cent of three months of premiums to many personal auto insurance customers, according to its website. Cheques started going out April 27.