Former Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen says a recent FOI response from ICBC shows Smithers residents are overpaying on insurance.
Data from 2014-2018 shows that while the town’s policy holders paid $35.7 million in premiums during that period, they only received $13 million back in claims.
Repen has previously said that ICBC has told him 25 per cent of their operating budget goes to operation.
Furthermore, he said he feels rural areas are likely to incur less costs than urban areas for these administration fees but that he has added this flat 25 per cent increase to all his calculations to be conservative in his estimates.
With those costs in mind, factoring in an additional 25 per cent in operating costs to that claim figure, Repen has come up with a hypothetical figure of around $17.33 million in claims received.
“While the years varied, no single year was even close to par in Smithers,” Repen said.
“Residents overpaid by $18.4 million over those five years, or approximately $3,431 for every man, woman and child living in Smithers over that period.”
The actual average premiums are not anywhere close to double, but Repen is factoring in the disparity based on claims cost per policies in force. For example, in 2016, the average claims cost per policies-in-force for Lower Mainland drivers was $2,102 compared to $769 for north central motorists.
And while Repen might have gotten this response back, he said a number of other responses that individuals have sent in since he put in his initial request have had their required deadline dates come and go without a response from the Crown corporation
What’s more, Repen said that those requests were already successfully deferred by a 30-day extension request sent in by ICBC.
In essence, Repen said, ICBC missed the deadlines it imposed on itself.
“It’s certainly surprising that they would so blatantly breach the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but it is ICBC.”
In a prepared statement Lindsey Wilkins, a spokesperson for the provincial insurer, told The Interior News that the requests are on their radar and they are working to complete them quickly and accurately.
“We are working on responding to these [FOI] requests as soon as possible. In total, we received 12 separate FOI requests related to this topic in addition to media requests.”
Wilkins added that doing this requires ICBC compile and verify complex data reports for each FOI request and that these requests alone will take over a hundred hours of work to complete.
“We take our obligations with all FOI requests very seriously,” she said. “We receive a very high number of FOI and data requests. This requires us to manage our resources carefully and prioritize requests. We appreciate the applicants’ patience as we process their requests.”
But Repen isn’t convinced and said he doubts the claim that these requests would take this much time to complete.
He said the next steps are for the authors of those additional FOI requests to submit a complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C., something he said is what he had to do to obtain a response to his initial FOI requests.
Repen added that one person he has spoken to has already submitted such a complaint and many others have indicated they intend to.
It’s unfortunate that people have to go through this extended process just to access information that should be available to the public,” he said.
“My feeling is they are seeing the numbers that we’ve seen and really don’t want to share that with the public because they don’t want people in rural B.C. to know exactly how bad they are being overcharged for their ICBC insurance premiums.”
Repen added he spoke to Attorney General David Eby during an “ask me anything” session on Reddit earlier this month.
“Why are you, as the minister responsible, turning a blind eye to the blatant economic discrimination against rural British Columbians by ICBC?” asked Repen.
“We are indeed taking this seriously, I just sent a letter to you this week,” Eby responded. “There are major changes coming in how rates are set in B.C. in September to take into account the risk drivers actually represent.” He added that a territorial factor is just one element that determines insurance rates.
Repen said he is still waiting for that letter.
“I would like to know from [Eby] what exactly is going on and why we’re not getting a response [to the FOI requests].”
He said he is confident that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. will be able to engage the Crown corporation in a legal consent order to require them to release the requested information, which is what he had to do to receive a result for his FOI request, but added the whole situation has left him with a sour taste in his mouth.
“To have this incredible silence and lack of response from … a Crown monopoly that we don’t really have any choice but to use, it’s not the kind of thing you’d expect in our democracy.”
Furthermore, he said, the most recent data shows even the urban policy holders might be overpaying. Each FOI request included one rural and one urban postal code.
“V7A also overpaid, but to a much lower proportion,” Repen said.
“I’m curious to see more data; given the two responses received, I’m not sure how ICBC is losing money.”