March 19, 2021 by Adam Malik
Editor’s notes: This story has been updated to include additional information from Allstate, Aviva, CAA, Desjardins and Intact.
Insurance Bureau of Canada announced in 2020 that its members are offering reductions in auto insurance premiums for consumers whose driving habits have changed significantly. You can read that story here.
Canada’s P&C insurance industry should follow the example of the banking sector and show a united front in presenting options to clients adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to some brokers.
Canada’s six biggest banks released a joint announcement on Mar. 17, 2020 that identified some solutions for customers feeling the financial pinch, after “social distancing” caused some businesses to shut down in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. In that statement, the banks confirmed they would “work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; childcare disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19.”
The banks’ collective set of options includes a six-month deferral for mortgages.
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, brokers expressed to Canadian Underwriter that they were hoping to hear the same kind of agreed-upon baseline set of proposals coming from the biggest insurers in Canada. When asked the biggest concerns are of insurance professionals in a CU poll, 51% of respondents picked “managing the needs of clients who may not have the means to pay premiums (or who may want to cut their contracts short).”
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) issued a media release on Mar. 19, 2020 stating: “Consumers who have questions about their current insurance coverage or are concerned about their ability to continue to pay their premiums due to the impact of COVID-19 should contact their insurance representative to discuss a potential solution.”
IBC’s release goes on to imply that the unique coverage options offered by insurance make it difficult to offer blanket, baseline solutions for clients who are in dire financial straits.
“Business insurance products, in particular, are often highly specialized and tailored to a client’s unique needs, so it’s important for business insurance customers to engage their insurance representatives in any discussion about their policy,” IBC’s statement says.
Brokers have told Canadian Underwriter that they would like to hear something more cohesive from the insurance companies.
Canadian Underwriter has approached individual companies to ask how they might offer emergency relief to consumers. Some responded with messaging similar to IBC’s, saying emergency situations would be handled on a case by case basis. Others offered some more specifics, while others either chose to not respond or could not meet the deadline. (Canadian Underwriter will be updating this story to post company responses as we receive them.)
To date, here’s what carriers have told us (in alphabetical order):
Allstate issued two “Stay at Home Payments” early on in the pandemic, and the company says it is committed to its customers.
Two “Stay at Home Payments” of around 25% were issued to Allstate Canada, Pembridge and Pafco clients, one in April and another in June 2020.
“That commitment to our customers remains as strong as ever and motivated us to enhance our savings programs for those who are driving less,” Allstate Canada’s president and CEO Ryan Michael told Canadian Underwriter.
“This includes an additional rate decrease on automobile policies for the majority of Allstate and Pembridge customers, an increase in the multi-line discount, and a higher enrolment discount for customers that sign-up for Drivewise. These additional measures serve as another important example of how our company is putting the needs of our customers first by helping to relieve some of the financial burden caused by the pandemic.”
Existing Ontario auto insurance customers with Aviva will get a premium reduction of up to 20%, the company has announced.
The announcement affects customers who renew on or after June 15, 2021. New customers who apply to Aviva after May 1 can take advantage of the reduction as well.
These changes apply to auto insurance policies underwritten by Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, Scottish & York Insurance Co. Limited, Aviva General Insurance Company, S&Y Insurance Company, and Traders General Insurance Company. The reduction does not apply to Aviva Canada Lifestyle products, the company noted.
In August 2020, personal auto customers in Ontario received a 5% discount.
The 20% premium reduction will be automatically applied when customers’ existing policy renews or they apply for a new policy.
“We continue to see a reduced level of claims in Ontario, and we are passing these savings on to our customers,” said Phil Gibson, managing director of personal insurance at Aviva Canada. “This is the second time we will reduce our personal auto rates for Ontario customers since the start of the pandemic.”
Aviva gave customers $147 million in relief across a range of measures last year through premium reductions and payment deferrals.
Customers of CAA Insurance will receive a rate reduction for the coming year, the company has announced.
This latest relief for Ontario drivers will see auto policyholders’ rates reduced by 15% for a 12-month term. This applies to existing customers with auto policies that renew on or after June 15. Those with policies that renew between Jan. 1 and June 14 of this year can apply for incremental rate relief by completing a form on CAA’s website.
The reduction comes into effect for new clients on Apr. 15.
This announcement is in addition to the $50 cheque in October and the $100 cheque in May that the insurer provided eligible clients last year. At the onset of the pandemic, as lockdown measures were put in place across the country, CAA announced a 10% reduction on both home and auto insurance. It was and still is the only insurer to provide relief on home insurance policies, the company says.
“We recognize that people are either driving less or driving differently, and we don’t expect this to change in the short-term,” said Matthew Turack, president of CAA Insurance. “We understand there are many people facing challenges brought on by the pandemic. We believe that insurance companies should step up, give back, and help Ontarians manage expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
CAA estimates more than $130 million in pandemic relief will be provided to home and auto policyholders over a two-year span when taking all relief measures into account.
Commonwell is offering financial relief to its members — but also encouraging them to think of their fellow community members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its “Pay It Forward” program will provide $100 to its members to help ease the burden their household finances may be facing at this time. They are also being encouraged to pass the money on to those in need in their community if they can afford to do so.
Payments will be mailed to members in the next four weeks.
“As a community insurer, we are stepping forward to help our communities in a time of challenge that is affecting all of us,” said Tim Shauf, president and CEO of Commonwell. “Our ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative stems from the fact that we have been able to carry on business as an essential service while others have not. It recognizes that while we can’t fix all problems, each of us, through individual decisions and individual actions, can make a difference.”
The program is in addition to other relief measures already in place. For auto premium relief, the company is asking members to update their use of vehicles. Members with commercial or farm policies are now able to make mid-term changes to find premium relief. Commercial customers that were forced to shut down won’t have their properties be considered unoccupied. Rate changes for residential properties that were set to come in on new business and renewals have been rolled back as well. And for those providing childcare for those impacted by the virus, no action is required as coverage is automatically extended at no cost.
Commonwell will try to avoid cancellation for non-payment, waive non-sufficient fund fees or charge short rate cancellation fees for policies terminated mid-term. On a case by case basis, the company will offer a payment deferral of up to one month.
Owners of light vehicles — both personal and commercial, including light farm — are being offered a Reduced Driving Refund from The Co-operators.
A minimum of 10% of premium paid from Apr. 1 to May 31 will be refunded to eligible policyholders starting in July. Clients are being asked to log in to their online account and select the “Reduced Driving Refund” box and submit. Clients will be told in June when they will receive the refund, though the company said the savings would be sent in July.
If clients are driving significantly less, they are being asked to call their advisors to see if they’re eligible for additional premium reduction relief.
The company is also offering flexible payment options and extending payment grace periods to its clients during the pandemic. It is also recommending that other policy changes are possible, like changing the use of vehicle to pleasure instead of commute. Coverage for stored vehicles can be suspended or reduced as well.
Existing relief measures are still in place to accommodate personal and commercial insurance clients, Desjardins recently confirmed.
In January 2021, the direct insurer confirmed that its main relief measures, such as payment deferrals, would remain in place.
Desjardins has provided $155 million in refunds to more than 2.1 million policyholders — the refunds came in the form of premium adjustments. For example, Desjardins previously announced that the average premium reduction was 20% for driving customers. Those who parked their cars were seeing a 75% reduction for every month the vehicle was stored. Desjardins also announced eligible personal and commercial customers would receive a refund between 25% and 40% of their premium for one month, depending on market realities.
In addition to payment deferrals, Desjardins also raised the insurance coverage limit for people working from home. Initially announced as a temporary measure during the onset of the pandemic, it will be extended and automatically applies to all policies. Coverage limits under home insurance contracts sit at $10,000 for items used to work from home, such as computer equipment and ergonomic chairs.
A rebate of up to 15% off premiums is available to Echelon customers.
Brokers should work with their clients to reduce premiums, available to those who reduce the mileage associated with their policy. Echelon also recommends that clients speak to their brokers about taking off all but comprehensive coverage from their policy to enable a premium reduction of up to 80% if the vehicle is safely parked and stored amid the pandemic.
These measures are in addition to previously-announced relief measures by Echelon: Those facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic can also take advantage of flexible payment options and having missed payments fees waived; Customers using their vehicles for volunteer delivery will get extended overage; Customers won’t go without coverage; and premium rates will be frozen to ensure no additional expense for clients.
“We understand that many customers are doing their part. They are staying home and driving less, resulting in fewer cars on the road,” said Robin Joshua, president of Echelon Insurance. “We want to do our part by introducing additional measures to ease the financial burden this crisis has caused, while also recognizing the reduced risk associated with changes in driving behaviour.”
Coverage modification options are available to customers of Economical Insurance’s family of brands.
Economical clients are being asked to reach out to their broker to explore their options, while Sonnet clients can email or use online chat to review their policy and see what options are available.
Those who are driving less may be eligible for an enhanced reduction when it comes to their auto insurance rates. Since insurance rates are calculated based on the expected number of kilometres driven in a year, reducing that number could drop monthly rates by up to 15%, said the company. Those who previously had longer drives may save more than those who had shorter commutes, Economical pointed out. Savings are available until June 30.
If a client has parked their vehicle entirely, they could save upwards of 75% on average. Brokers can help clients apply a coverage suspension to reduce rates by keep the policy active. Economical recommended to ensure policies will still protect clients if injured as a passenger in another vehicle or as a pedestrian. Clients need to tell their brokers when they start driving again.
Those who are using their personal vehicle for delivery or volunteering need to inform their broker. There will be no impact to premiums, however,
Personal insurance customers with Economical who are impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic should speak with their broker, visit the website or contact a customer service representative to go over relief options.
“During this exceptional time, our teams have acted with compassion and professionalism to support our customers with relief measures suited to their unique circumstances,” said Rowan Saunders, president and CEO of Economical Insurance. “Over the past several weeks, we have launched a number of programs for our personal and commercial insurance customers which we expect will result in more than $50 million in total relief for them during this uncertain time.
A Customer Care Package rolled out by Gore Mutual offers relief for personal auto, property and commercial clients, provides quicker access to claims settlements and inlcudes other financial relief options.
Personal auto policyholders will get a one-time payment equivalent to 20% of three months of premiums paid. Clients who had in-force policies as of Apr. 8 will receive payment in the form of a cheque. No action is required from customers as they will all automatically receive the cheque in the mail.
Personal property clients who are now working from home will get personal liability and business property coverage for up to $5,000 on their existing policies. Gore won’t charge additional premiums for the coverage, which is in effect until July 31.
Commercial customers with vacant premises due to temporary closures are also getting relief. Gore said it won’t consider any business properties vacant or unoccupied if the business has been ordered to shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Repair work stemming from claims has become a challenge due to physical distancing guidelines, the company pointed out. So Gore is offering what it calls a ‘Quick Cash’ payout option to speed up claims settlements. Customers can accept a cash payout for a claim in lieu of repairing damage. It’s not a requirement, but an available option if clients are interested.
As for other financial relief options, Gore will not cancel policies for nonsufficient funds fees through the end of April. After that, the carrier will assess the impact of the pandemic and explore new flexible payment options on a case-by-case basis, including no penalty for payment deferral.
Short rate fees will not apply to any personal or commercial cancellations made by the client, the company noted.
“As a mutual company, our priority has always been the well-being of our customers,” said incoming president and CEO Andy Taylor in a statement. “In fact, one of our core values is simply ‘Do It Right.’ The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge financial impact on Canada and people across the country are struggling. The Gore Mutual Customer Care Package will provide support for all of our customers no matter what product they have.”
iA Financial Group has announced new relief measures, including discounts for iA Home and Auto policyholders.
Noting that this is an “unusual situation,” the company announced a 20% reduction of monthly auto premiums dating back to Apr. 1. It will be in effect for two months. Customers do not need to apply for the discount.
“We will then reassess based on how measures announced by the government and public health authorities evolve,” the company said in a statement. “Further details regarding this discount will soon be provided to clients of iA Auto and Home.”
New support from Intact will allow for personal auto customers to request relief equivalent to one month of their auto premium.
This measure is available to all customers in the Intact family of brands, the company announced. It will be targeted to customers in need and who have changed their driving habits during the latest wave of COVID-19. It includes people who are commuting for essential reasons.
To get access to relief funds, Intact Insurance customers can contact their broker or, along with belairdirect clients, they can apply through the company’s Client Centre or app. Money will be sent through Interac e-Transfer.
“Our purpose is to help people, businesses, and society prosper in good times and be resilient in bad times,” Louis Gagnon, president of Canadian Operations at Intact Financial Corporation, commented. “For more than a year, the pandemic has tested the resilience of individuals and society. This latest wave has been even more challenging. As a company, we came into this pandemic on strong footing and we are in a position to continue helping our customers.”
To date, Intact said it has provided $530 million in relief to 1.2 million personal and business customers. This latest announcement is in addition to those numbers.
A reduction is risk is allowing L’Unique to pass on savings to its customers, the company announced. A rebate of 20% will be applied as of Apr. 1 to clients with a policy covering private passenger and commercial vehicles.
“Compliance with COVID-19 confinement measures is reducing traffic and the frequency of losses. L’Unique is therefore offering a rebate that reflects this reduction in risk,” Yves Gagnon, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of L’Unique General Insurance, said in a statement.
“By giving the rebate to everyone instead of only those who are using their vehicle less, L’Unique is also allowing seniors, as well as essential workers, to benefit,” he added. “We don’t think it would be fair if those who are saving lives or are working so that our society continues to function didn’t benefit from this rebate as well.”
The rebate will cover the entire period of community isolation and no request needs to be made for clients.
Private passenger and commercial auto insurance clients of La Capitale will be getting a rebate on their premiums — equal to 20% of their monthly premium
“The collective effort by Quebec residents to respect the COVID-19 confinement measures is having a tangible impact on the frequency of automobile losses. This reduction in risk should be reflected in the premium our insureds pay,” Jean St-Gelais, chairman of the board and CEO of La Capitale Insurance and Financial Services, announced.
While a measure to help those who aren’t driving as much, the rebate is to recognize those still working in essential services and having to travel to work.
“This is why we want everyone to benefit from this rebate, including our “guardian angels” and other workers providing essential services, as well as our seniors,” added Jean St-Gelais.
The rebate is effective as of Apr. 1
Personal auto customers will get a 15% rebate on premiums for three months from Northbridge.
The company recently updated its relief options to its clients, noting that they will see a notification in June about the rebate. Those eligible will need to have been policyholders with third-party liability on May 31. However, Northbridge noted, ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles don’t qualify for the rebate.
As for those who are no longer using their vehicle, Northbridge recommends they speak with their broker about their options.
Brokers are also asked to speak with personal auto clients who want to use their vehicles for delivery services.
Specific relief options haven’t been mentioned by Northbridge for commercial clients, though the company does say it will work with businesses through their broker to find solutions. Business premises will also remain covered by policies.
It’s a “premium holiday” for Onlia customers as the digital insurer is waiving payments for one month.
Policyholders as of March 31 and have made at least one full monthly premium payment will automatically receive a one-month premium waiver for May.
Onlia, which is only available in Ontario and touts itself as a company that motivates drivers to change behaviours to promote safe driving, is also offering rewards to Canadian staying home through its Onlia Sense driving app. Beyond encouraging safe driving, those customers who stay at home during May can earn $20 in cash by parking their vehicles entirely, the company said in an announcement.
“Onlia has always put the safety of Canadians first, and now more than ever we are pulling together to protect one another,” said Pieter Louter, Onlia’s chief executive officer. “With customers presently experiencing unprecedented lifestyle changes, we are taking additional steps to provide support and assistance to our community.”
The company has reported a 70% drop in its app usage, a signal of how much physical distancing has affected vehicle usage.
Mutuals across Ontario have come together to offer a number of relief measures to clients.
The Ontario Mutual Insurance Association announced that all companies across its 38-member network are waiving non-sufficient funds fees, offering flexible payment options and extended payment grace periods. Additionally, companies are re-rating auto policies with reduced usage or reduction in coverage as customers drive their vehicles less often.
Furthermore, mutuals are allowing discounts like graduated licensing to continue — drivers who can’t take their next road test due to the closure of testing centres are allowed to continue to progress and maintain discount eligibility.
For commercial clients, a business will not be considered to be vacant, unoccupied or shut down while there is a state of emergency declared. However, there must be enough insured property on the premises to conduct business and the owner has to be maintaining a level of care to the area. Business policyholders are asked to contact their agent or broker if they have concerns about coverage or premium.
“Community spirit and commitment to local economies have been the backbone of our business model for over 160 years,” said John Taylor, president of the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association. “Now more than ever, we are steadfast in our commitment to our policyholders, and to ensuring we continue to provide our essential services in a flexible and responsive way. As independent, community-based insurers, our mutuals will continue to recognize and adapt to the emerging needs of policyholders.”
Customers of RSA Canada will receive a break on their insurance premiums, but how much will depend on their needs and situation.
The carrier has put a number of measures in place until June 30 and will review the plan as the pandemic develops.
Those driving or commuting less – or aren’t using their vehicles at all – because of the pandemic are asked to call their broker or representative to make auto coverage changes.
If customers need support or are struggling to make payments, flexible options and payment deferrals are being made available. Again, they should contact their broker or representative to discuss options. Non-sufficient funds fees for personal and small commercial policies occurring after April 1 will be waived by the insurer. However, RSA warns that banks may make separate charges and customers should speak with their bank for more information.
Personal auto clients who are temporarily using their vehicle for delivery – whether they are an employee of a restaurant, grocery store, pharmacy or even with a food delivery service app — coverage will be available for all policies. There will be no change in premiums.
When it comes to home policies, coverages in place will not be impacted when working from home ad directed by their employer due to the pandemic.
As for commercial customers, RSA noted the following:
“In the last month, Canadians have changed where they work, how much they drive and what they need to protect themselves, their families and their businesses,” Martin Thompson, president and CEO of RSA Canada, said in an announcement. “As a national insurer, our promise is to be there for our customers when they need us most, so we are implementing new measures to provide meaningful assistance during these uncertain times.”
SGI Canada has been in regular contact with customers and brokers partners on flexible payment options, according to chief operating officer Randy MacFarlane.
It is offering to defer payments, allowing payments to be spread out over the remainder of the policy, or change payment plans without financial penalty. Customers unable to make payments will have non-sufficient funds fees waived.
Reduced coverage options are available to those no longer driving a vehicle, which could save customers up to 75% on their premiums. Other savings may also be available for those who are driving less.
“We encourage customers to work with their broker to address their specific situation,” added MacFarlane. “We have been in constant contact with our broker network and provided them with flexible options to assist our mutual customers.”
SSQ Insurance companies will get a 20% monthly premium rebate on each vehicle they have insured, the company announced.
While people are driving less because they’ve been forced to work from home or must because they are essential workers all clients will receive a rebate. SSQ Insurance’s chief executive officer Jean-François Chalifoux said in a news release that the company wants to “applaud” the efforts made by everyone to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
“To demonstrate our solidarity with our community of insureds, and in keeping with our mutualist values, we will support all of our auto insurance clients equally, regardless of whether or not they have reduced their mileage,” said SSQ Insurance chief executive officer Jean-François Chalifoux.
The rebate is effective Apr. 1 and will stay in place for the duration of the confinement period. There is nothing clients need to do to get the rebate, nor do they have to provide updated mileage information to the insurer.
This is on top of other relief tools, such as flexible payment options and the waiving of nonsufficient funds fees. Customers using their vehicles for volunteer work or delivery purposes don’t need to inform SSQ as they will be automatically covered with no impact on their premium.
Clients using their home for work don’t have to let the company know and no additional premiums are necessary.
TD Insurance said they will make making insurance more flexible and accessible for its customers.
The company is offering a series of options to its home and auto clients, as well as taken measures to ensure physical distancing in its auto centres, it said in a news release.
The company is offering a 90-day payment deferral to customers for those impacted by COVID-19. TD is also making a temporary premium adjustment as people use their vehicles less frequently as a result of physical distancing and working from home.
TD also announced that it was waiving nonsufficient funds fees during the pandemic as well as not cancelling home and auto policies as a result of non-payment.
Many TD Insurance Auto Centres locations remain open for those involved in a collision. The company has implemented physical distancing, screening methods, enhanced cleaning and reduced hours at the centres.
“Canadian lives are disrupted in so many ways — at home and at work. The purpose of insurance is to provide peace of mind, and that need is greater today than ever before,” Raymond Chun, TD Insurance president and CEO, said in a statement.
Travelers Canada has extended its Stay-at-Home Auto Premium Credit Program. Customers will receive an additional 15% rebate for one month’s premium.
The company will automatically credit customers’ accounts. Those who pay by monthly installments will receive the automatic credit on a future bill. Customers who have already paid in full will receive their payment via cheque.
This announcement is in addition to its previously-announced 25% premium reduction announced in May. Back then, Travelers also announced it would extend auto coverage for Canadian customers who are temporarily using their personal vehicles to for food, grocery, pharmacy and medical supply deliveries.
All of Trisura’s 135 staff members from its five offices are working from home. While able to speak with brokers and clients over the phone and through email, Trisura has set up a COVID-19 page to provide updates. It includes answers to common questions from their broker partners.
Take unoccupied insured locations, for example. The company said that when a public authority has declared a state of emergency, it will not consider locations to be unoccupied or shut down “if they still contain sufficient insured property to conduct normal business operations and as long as the insured is visiting the covered premises a minimum of every seven days (when possible) and exhibits a proactively prudent level of care, control, and maintenance of the property.” That includes making sure doors and windows are locked. A vacant building will not have sufficient insured property, the company added.
As for premium payments, Trisura said it will not cancel a policy for non-payment due to the Emergency Declaration.
“All of our staff continue to be available and we are open for business as always,” its site reads. “Our appetite for business has not changed and we are here to help you in any way we can. We recognize and applaud how hard the brokerage community is working to provide information, advice, and seamless service to your clients.”
Wawanesa clients who aren’t commuting to work anymore are being asked to contact their brokers to adjust their policies for premium relief during the pandemic.
Those who are still using their vehicles for groceries and medical appointments should change their coverage to reflect their change in vehicle usage the company advised. “This will save you money every month. If you are working from home, self-quarantining or following social distancing guidelines, just pay for what you need,” Wawanesa’s COVID-19 webpage said.
Clients who have completely parked their vehicles can also contact their brokers to talk about options to reduce coverage and pay less per month. Wawanesa savings could be as high as 75% or $80 per month for each vehicle not being used.
If a client wants to deliver food and the like due to a change in their livelihood or business because of the pandemic, the company is allowing policyholders to change their vehicle usage to do so.
The company is working on a case-by-case basis with those going through a claims process but haven’t been able to have their home or vehicle repaired because vendors are closed or materials are unavailable. Such options would include extending car rental periods or additional living expenses.
Clients working from home can see $5,000 in coverage to protect business property that may not be insured elsewhere.
Wawanesa is also waiving nonsufficient funds fees until at least May 25, offering help for payment deferrals, flexible payment options and not cancelling policies for non-payment.
On the commercial side of things, Wawanesa noted that they have options available to help with businesses that have seen a slowdown. Commercial policyholders can remove some driving coverages to reduce their business insurance payments. Further, the carrier added, any new or developing business opportunities should be discussed with the business’ broker. If business revenue is down, brokers will work to re-calculate premiums to reflect the change. Temporarily closed businesses will not see their commercial buildings be considered vacant or unoccupied for coverage purposes during the emergency.