March 15, 2019 by David Gambrill
If the Ontario government wants to take one small step towards reducing auto insurance premiums for its drivers, it might consider dropping its administrative charges for drivers and their insurers to obtain three-year driving records, one industry professional suggests.
“Assuming the insurance company orders one [motor vehicle record, or MVR] for every driver, on every policy, and if you think about the costs that the insurance companies are incurring to obtain [their policyholders’] information, then make it free and pass that savings along to [the consumer],” said Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com.
Thomas talked to Canadian Underwriter Friday about the importance of making driving records and insurance history information available to consumers online and at no cost to the consumer.
A recent Leger poll of 1,565 Canadians, commissioned by InsuranceHotline.com, found that 87% of drivers and policyholders believed they would have a better understanding of how their insurance rates were priced if they had easy access to their own driver’s record and insurance history. Ninety-five percent of auto insurance policyholders thought access to such records should be free, while 93% polled said the access should be available online.
Currently, it costs a driver $12 to order an online copy of an uncertified three-year driver’s record, the most frequently requested driver’s record in Ontario (there are five-year versions too). Known as an MVR, the report shows the number of demerit points a driver may have on his or her licence, as well as any suspensions and Highway Traffic Act and Criminal Code of Canada convictions.
A second piece of information, a driver’s insurance history (known as the ‘AutoPlus’ report), is free for drivers to obtain – insurers must pay a fee to obtain it – but it’s mailed to the driver within 10 business days of receiving the request. This document includes information about your most current insurance policy, as well as insurance claims, if any, for the past 20-plus years. It details the type of claim (e.g. collision, theft, bodily injury), how much was paid out and, in the event of a collision, the percentage of fault assigned. It also includes third party claims and, if there’s been a policy cancellation, the reason for it.
It is unknown what cost an individual insurance company might pay to obtain their policyholders’ MVRs or AutoPlus reports. It’s entirely possible, for example, that an insurance company might pay some kind of discount rate for ordering MVRs in bulk. But even if an insurer paid $2 for an AutoPlus report for each of its policyholders, that would amount to about a $10-million cost for the industry, assuming half of the country’s 11.1 million auto policyholders are located in Ontario.
For consumers, having access to their driving records and insurance Histories is crucial, said Thomas.
Take the following situation, which happens more often than people may think. A driver moves and forgets to update their information with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. In this situation, it’s possible a driver may not know that his or her license has been suspended unless he or she obtains a copy of their MVR. Not informing an insurance company about a change of address is also grounds for an insurance company to cancel auto policy coverage.
In addition to making sure drivers aren’t having their policies cancelled for unknown reasons such as license suspensions, consumers can also use such records to make sure that they are not being overcharged for their insurance premiums.
“This information is all being entered by humans, so it is not outside the realm of possibility that there could be a typo and that someone else’s claim ends up on your history,” Thomas said. “The sooner you notice the error, the easier it is to correct. Even to do online quotes, you would have the exact information right in front of you.”