Canadian Underwriter

Will consumers soon be able to access policy documents electronically?

September 6, 2018   by Jason Contant

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How close is the industry to consistently allowing consumers to access insurance documents electronically, such as by email?

“It’s a bit of a hodge podge out there at the moment,” Colin Simpson, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO), told Canadian Underwriter Wednesday.

Simpson was responding to a question about how close the industry is to allowing electronic access to insurance documents, and which policy documents consumers are asking for.

Some brokers have conducted studies about what consumers would like to see or have access to digitally, which includes things like access to billing information and the ability to conduct simple transactions and inquiries online. However, whether consumers want electronic access to the entire policy or just the declaration page, for example, “I don’t think anybody’s gotten to that kind of detail with consumers,” Simpson said.

While most brokers have the capability to email policies, they generally wouldn’t do so en masse. “You might just do it by exception,” unless, perhaps, it was a digital brokerage, Simpson said.

One challenge is that if a broker is required to provide customers with electronic interfaces, they have to be consistent across all the markets they service. “So, if you have a broker that has 12 markets, you really need them all to be doing the same thing, otherwise you are introducing complexity into the workflows of the brokers’ offices.”

Consistent delivery of data from insurance companies to brokers to consumers is needed. This is something IBAO’s BrokerFlow solution is trying to address: getting everybody headed in the same direction. “If you are doing an auto quote, for example, and three [markets] can do it in real time, it doesn’t really help you because you’ve got another nine markets you’ve got to do manually,” Simpson said.

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) told Canadian Underwriter last week more must be done to ensure consumers have the same “electronic experience they have come to expect from their financial and social institutions.”

Past IBC research has found 58% of 1,200 polled Canadians who pay for auto insurance would choose to receive insurance documents online or electronically if it were available – a number that increases to 71% among Millenials (usually defined as those currently between 22 and 37 years old).

In Ontario, the 2018 provincial budget clarified the use of electronic communication by insurers and consumers in the Insurance Act. Amendments to the act would have, if passed, clarified the use of electronic communication by insurers and consumers, including certain insurance applications, policies and forms. “This is a small step in the right direction to modernizing the insurance framework to reflect 21st century realities and consumer expectations,” said Rana Shamoon, senior policy analyst at IBC.

The budget was released in March, before a change in the provincial government. IBC is awaiting the new government’s “direction on this file to make [insurance] more accessible.”

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