The village council of Burns Lake plans to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) for the value of premiums in recent years.
In its meeting on Feb. 26, the council agreed to submit the request to learn about the total value of all premiums paid in and claims paid out to drivers in the V0J 1E0 postal code for 2014-2018.
The move comes after former Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen asked the village if it wanted to seek that data from ICBC, following his own ongoing information-gathering effort with the insurance agency.
“[Repen has] been looking into the difference between the rates we pay in the north versus what they pay in the south. In relationship to how much settlements cost in the north and how much they cost in the south. And it looks like we’re subsidizing the south by about $400 per policy. So that’s fairly significant, I think, to all our residents in Burns Lake,” mayor Dolores Funk explained to the council.
Speaking to Lakes District News, Repen was glad to hear that council has joined his FOI campaign.
“I’ve reached out to all of the municipalities in the Bulkley Valley regional district. I got a message from Fort St. James that they have a motion to support the resolution and send an FOI,” he said.
Repen found in his research based on the broad data on ICBC’s website that in many communities of the Prince George rate territory people are paying at least $400 too much for their basic policies.
“Paying over $1,200 for a basic policy but receiving only $700 to $750 return. We don’t have the exact numbers until they release that to us. That money is just purely going down to the lower mainland to subsidize the drivers there, who are in fact underpaying for the claims. They’re paying less in premiums than what’s being paid out.”
Those over payments mean that $200 million to $400 million is “leaked out of all rural B.C,” according to Repen’s calculations.
“A lot of people haven’t been doing the math and that’s why it’s so shocking,” he said.
“If people were paying appropriate rates that would make a huge difference on the rural economy. It’s not a fair situation that we should have to subsidize people like that.”
The former mayor has been waiting for answers from ICBC for several months, after he submitted his first FOI request to ICBC on Sept. 11, 2018.
“On the 17th [of September] I received a response from [ICBC road safety and community coordinator] Doug MacDonald confirming that that request had gone into the queue. Since then there has been no response whatsoever. I’m following up on that with the ICBC fairness commissioner.”
Section 7 of B.C’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act states that a public body has 30 working days to respond to an FOI request, and an extension of 30 more days is allowed.
Lakes District News has asked ICBC for premium and claims data for postal codes in Burns Lake, but has not submitted an FOI.
As for a future solution, Repen said there are two options.
“The easiest and most logical is to break ICBC into two rate pools…[One] for urban areas of over 100,000. Other would be for areas excluding urban areas. If they don’t like that option, the second is to set rates for the five-year history of claims costs in those postal codes.”
In the meantime, he hopes more communities will increase the pressure on ICBC to reveal the data on premiums paid for each area.
“We’re anticipating the municipalities will join in with the FOI requests. Hopefully a resolution will be supported by the North Central Local Government Association and the Union of BC Municipalities. We need to push ICBC to release those numbers and if we’re overpaying they need to fix it.”