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Proposal would see “sole occupation” rules loosened for agents


April 7, 2004   by Canadian Underwriter


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In a discussion paper, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) is looking at loosening the “sole occupation” restriction on general and life agents.
The restrictions mean that agents in bigger communities must be full-time agents and not hold other jobs. Originally this was intended to reduce conflicts of interest or possible coercion, and to ensure agents were proficient.
“These objectives continue to be valid,” the discussion paper notes. “However, some stakeholders have identified problems with the means of achieving the objectives.” Specifically, recruiting new agents is difficult when recruits are required to give up other occupations, especially given high turnover rates for agents, and particularly for agents working in call centers or for small farm mutuals.
FSCO notes that educational requirements and errors and omissions coverage are already offering consumer protections. Also, other jurisdictions do not have the restriction, FSCO notes, and the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) already reviews other occupations to ensure they do not conflict with the agent’s role.
It is proposed to eliminate the list of restricted occupations and to strengthen rules of conduct instead, including an “integrity” requirement (i.e. that the other occupation does not impact the integrity of the agent). A requirement to disclose conflict of interest would be added.
Another proposed change would lift the restriction on ownership of a corporate insurance agency which states that only a licensed agent can own more than 50% of the agency.