June 24, 2020 by Greg Meckbach
When a British Columbia motorist turned 65 in 2017, he did not immediately get the senior rate class discount, so he tried to sue the public auto insurer for a refund.
But the province’s Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled in favour of the insurer in its recent decision in Whyte v. ICBC.
‘Senior’ is no longer a separate rate class in B.C., effective Sept. 1, 2019. [Instead, clients now simply get a discount for turning 65.] But it was a separate rate class when Bruce Christopher Whyte went to his broker to change his address in February 2018. That was five months after Whyte turned 65. At the time, he was in the pleasure and not the senior rate class.
Whyte wanted the CRT to order Insurance Corporation of B.C. to pay him $494.75. He said this amount represents what he was overcharged for insurance between the time he turned 65 in 2017 and the time he started getting a senior’s discount in April 2019.
The CRT disagreed, noting that Whyte contacted his broker in 2018 to change his address; he could have changed his rate class to senior at that time, civil resolution tribunal vice chair Andrea Ritchie explained in her ruling released June 3. But “for reasons that are unexplained,” Ritchie wrote, Whyte’s rate class was not changed at the time. He did end up getting a senior’s discount effective April 2019.
Whyte’s broker was not a party in the dispute before the CRT.
ICBC argued it does not provide refunds for rate class changes after the fact. In 2017-18, the senior’s rate class was not simply a discount on premiums but was a different category of use, the province’s public insurer noted. At that time, the seniors rate class had different use restrictions than the “pleasure use” rate class that Whyte had until 2019.
The notes from Whyte’s broker, who is not named, indicate that when Whyte went to renew his policy in early 2018, the rate class was discussed. Whyte initialed beside the description of the rate class on both his 2017-18 and 2018-19 policies.
“The evidence is that his insurance broker discussed his rate class with him, and that is the rate class that he paid for,” Ritchie wrote. “Once Mr. Whyte advised his broker of his eligibility for the new rate class, it was appropriately changed.
“ICBC says, as a policy matter, retroactive refunds would cause customers to insure their vehicles for a higher rate class for greater vehicle use during their policy, but then request a refund after the expiry of the term, saying they only used the vehicle for some less expensive rate class.”
Since Sept. 1, 2019, the seniors’ discount has been reflected in ICBC clients’ “driver factor” report.
Common rate classes in B.C. include:
Feature image via iStock.com/Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn