Auto reforms still needed in Newfoundland

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is disappointed that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador left badly needed auto insurance reform out of its latest budget. “Every day that government waits is another day (consumers) are driving with a bad auto insurance product,” IBC Atlantic vp Amanda Dean said, noting a review of the system was an election promise two years ago. “We recognize that since . . . they have been in government there has been an awful lot of challenges — growing deficit and basically the entire fiscal situation of the province. “But let’s be honest, (a review) is something the industry will be paying for. The industry will be doing the work to bring a more sustainable auto insurance system to customers.” Data for 2016 from the General Insurance Statistical Agency is not yet available but Ms. Dean said it is clear from 2015 numbers that the market is in trouble. That year the auto insurance loss ratio was 92% and return on equity was -28%. “The industry is struggling to stay within that province and service customers,” she said. “Insurers are going above and beyond, with a very broken product. “Right now they’re barely hanging on with Band-Aids and need some major reforms.” Ms. Dean said the biggest issue is rising claims costs that are driving the unprofitability. She also said there are more uninsured motorists in Newfoundland than elsewhere in the region. Ms. Dean said auto insurers in Newfoundland are being forced to make tough choices — one of which could be to exit the market. “That is something companies have to decide on their own.” She said insurers may also choose to tighten underwriting or increase premiums “to exorbitant rates” to cover their losses. “None of these scenarios are necessarily something insurers want to do because they want to serve customers and continue to do business in that province but it is becoming increasingly difficult.” She said prior to the reforms in the early 2000s people complained to their elected officials about auto insurance but the government denies that is happening this time. The IBC is developing a public communications campaign it expects to roll out this summer to raise awareness of this issue among consumers in the province.