Canadian Underwriter
News

How COVID-19 is changing insurance transactions in B.C.


March 25, 2020   by Jason Contant


Print this page Share

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe and here at home is changing the way auto insurance transactions are conducted in British Columbia.

Last week, the government of British Columbia announced it would allow certain auto insurance transactions, such as vehicle insurance renewals, by phone and email. Normally to complete an Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) Autoplan new policy or renewal, the insured is required to attend an ICBC agent’s office and personally sign the policy documents to receive the policy and decal. (In B.C., the annual registration and basic insurance policy are tied together).

“ICBC, the BC government and the Insurance Council of BC all had to work together to make this change in process a reality,” Aly Kanji, president and CEO of InsureLine, told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

The Ministry of Attorney General said in a release Mar. 18 that while there are no changes to driver’s licence renewals at this time, “ICBC is working actively on further options across the board to support customers and employees. ICBC also continues to work closely with brokers through a joint task force on additional online services, including a more permanent process for insurance renewals.”

Kanji said the mandate of the task force is to determine which insurance transactions can be done online and how to conduct them. “The presumption is the proposed changes will then result in a change to the legislation and regulations in order to enable the new practice and process,” he said in an interview.

The insurance regulations are 40 years old, Kanji added. “The rules haven’t changed and kept up with the times.”

Kanji was one of a number of brokers pushing ICBC to find a solution to enable ICBC agencies to continue to operate without having to keep their offices open during the pandemic. The Ministry of Attorney General said in its release that many brokers remain open for business for people who want to visit in person or for transactions that cannot be done over the phone, such as vehicle registrations and new policies.

Under the temporary change, ICBC customers will be able to receive the following services from participating brokers:

  • vehicle insurance renewal, cancellation, and policy changes by phone
  • changes to storage policies (APV345) and temporary operating permits (APV16)
  • receive transactions by email
  • submit signatures electronically
  • submit payments by phone
  • receive policy documents by email

“I don’t believe a change was made to the regulations, but the government has allowed a variance to forego the need for a signature in the current situation, on a temporary basis,” Kanji said. “The indication is that this temporary process will be available until the COVID-19 crisis improves and the mandate for social distancing is relaxed so that we can resume to business as usual.” He added that ICBC and the provincial government will advise when the temporary process will no longer be permitted.

In figuring out this new reality of most people temporarily working from home, another piece of the puzzle is broker/agent supervision. Normally, a Level 1 insurance broker/agent can only work in the office under the supervision of a Level 2 or 3. Now, the Insurance Council of BC has allowed brokers with a Level 1 licence to work from home, as most ICBC Autoplan transactions are conducted by Level 1 agents.

How are Level 1 agents being supervised now?

“Our interpretation is that a Level 2 or 3 needs to be available to a Level 1 at all times,” Kanji said. “In our case, we have a Level 2 or 3 staff member available at all times by telephone or video conference. A Level 1 agent can conference them in directly when speaking with a client or put a client on hold and get help or advice. In addition, every transaction in our office is peer-reviewed before it goes out to the client, including all ICBC transactions.”