Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen Former Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen has launched a public pressure campaign to highlight what he sees as rural drivers subidizing their urban counterparts. (Interior News file photo)

Freedom of information campaign on ICBC rates started

Former north B.C. mayor is recruiting people to get ICBC info to compare rural vs urban rates.

A former Telkwa mayor has launched a campaign to put pressure on ICBC regarding insurance rates.

Darcy Repen first started questioning the fairness of rates because Telkwa was lumped in with Prince George in Territory R (Prince George) rather than with Smithers in Territory S (north coast).

On average, according to ICBC data from 2016, motorists in Telkwa paid an average of $110 more annually than their counterparts just 14 kilometres up Highway 16.

“We thought that was nuts being a bedroom community of Smithers,” Repen said. “But while I was doing research into that issue, I found a much bigger issue that actually affects all of rural B.C.”

“The data shows the cost and the number of crashes and injuries is much, much, much higher in the urban areas and definitely disproportionate to what they pay in premiums versus what we pay. Based on the data I can access, it looks like we are just flat out subsidizing urban drivers.”

Repen believes at least part of the reason for that is an effort by the Crown corporation to offset chronic annual losses.

READ MORE: ICBC projects $1.18 billion loss for fiscal 2018

Although the average premium is slightly higher for urban policy holders, according to ICBC’s Schedule of Basic Insurance Premiums, Repen’s calculations based on 2016 ICBC data indicate the average claims cost per policies-in-force for Lower Mainland drivers was $2,102 compared to $769 for north central, meaning, he says, northerners are effectively paying up to two times more.

The latest ICBC Rate Design application to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) indicates the insurer intends to reduce the rates for its northern territories by between 3.5 per cent per year in Territory R to 5.0 per cent in Territory V (Peace River).

“They make it very clear that rural B.C. is hugely being overcharged,” Repen said. “If you do the math on that over 10 years, they are basically admitting that they are massively overcharging us, up to 50 per cent in the Peace River region and they’re not fixing it, they’re gradually doing that over 10 years.”

ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan did not validate nor invalidate Repen’s claims, but in a statement to The Interior News defended the boundaries and historical insurance rates.

“ICBC’s existing territories and their boundaries were established through a regulatory process a number of years ago by examining the electoral districts at the time and using actuarial analysis to determine which of these districts would best be grouped together to create today’s insurance territories,” she wrote. “Territory boundaries are one feature of our insurance rating system. Other factors include how you use your vehicle, an individual’s insurance and claims history, the type of coverage a person chooses, the vehicle a person drives, among others.”

Linsangan confirmed ICBC will not be adjusting boundaries, but said there is relief coming for Telkwa vehicle owners.

Telkwa insurance rates going down by 30 per cent over 10 years

“While ICBC has no immediate plans to re-examine the existing rating territories, we have made adjustments to the territory factor in response to the changes in population and infrastructure,” she said. “Starting September of this year, Telkwa residents will see a decrease of 3.5 per cent to their territory factor, and the decreases will continue over 10 years totalling 30.1 per cent.”

That is not good enough for Repen. He initially explored the possibility of a class action lawsuit, but after working with legal counsel for about a month, he said they decided it was futile.

“If we were suing ICBC it would have been a home run, but ICBC is regulated through the B.C. Utilities Commission, so what that meant was basically we would have to sue the B.C. government,” said Repen.

That does not mean he is giving up. Repen is attempting to conduct a public pressure campaign by seeking to get the ICBC data on premiums and claim costs broken down by postal code for the past five years.

He believes access to that data is essential to ensuring fairness, and is coordinating an effort to get individual citizens to make FOI requests for one specific rural and one specific urban postal code. He is doing it that way because he believes asking for all the data at once would be cost prohibitive since B.C. charges for the time spent searching for and retrieving information after an initial three-hour period. In the province, there are 191 forward sortation areas (the first half of the postal code) and up to 43 local delivery units in each of those.

Repen says approximately 10 people, including himself, have already submitted FOI requests. Linsangan confirmed Repen’s request is being processed.

“I’ve looked into Mr. Repen’s FOI request, and it is in the queue to be completed, but I should note that there is a long list of data requests before his,” she said.

The Interior News has requested access to the data outside of the formal FOI process.

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