Darcy Repen pictured with his FOI response from ICBC. (Submitted photo)

FOI data confirms rural drivers discriminated against, former Telkwa mayor says

Analyzed rural postal codes paid just over 2.5 times more in premiums than they received in claims

Discriminatory.

That’s what Darcy Repen says ICBC rates are for people in rural communities.

After analyzing the data for 18 different postal codes in the province—nine rural and nine urban—the former Telkwa mayor is concerned rural B.C. residents are paying too much for insurance.

The information was obtained through a series of freedom of information (FOI) requests, both by Repen and individuals across the province, as part of the former’s campaign to determine if — and to what degree — rural drivers are subsidizing Lower Mainland insurance costs through disproportionately high premiums.

READ MORE: Repen: FOI data proves Telkwans being ripped off by ICBC

By averaging the rural and urban data over a five-year period (2014-2018) Repen was able to calculate disparities between premium and claims costs for the respective data sets, both for raw figures and a modified set of data that includes an additional 25 per cent on top of claims costs to account for ICBC operating costs.

Repen bases this math on a statement from ICBC’s 2017-2018 Annual Service Plan Report, which states that “costs of claims incurred account for approximately three quarters of ICBC’s total costs.”

The raw figures show that, over those years, the nine rural postal codes analyzed through FOI requests paid just over 2.5 times more in premiums than they received back in claims.

When adjusted for operating costs, they paid just over 1.9 times more in premiums than received back in payouts from the Crown corporation.

“The data confirms what we had suspected, [that] Rural ICBC customers are definitely paying far more in premiums compared to claims payouts than urban ICBC customers are,” Repen said in a Facebook post that details the findings.

Data shows that, even in urban postal codes, drivers were paying more in premiums than they received back in claims, albeit at a less disproportionate rate.

When averaged together, all urban postal codes paid just over 1.5 times more than they received in claims.

That figure drops to just under 1.2 when those numbers are adjusted for ICBC operating costs.

“It was interesting to see the particular discrepancies on the urban level, where there are certain areas [such as] suburban Vancouver where it looked like those communities were still basically paying their way with ICBC, [although] certainly not paying as much as we are,” he told The Interior News, adding that the “real shocker” was downtown Vancouver.

“ICBC customers in downtown Vancouver … paid $23 million in premiums but had $40 million in claims payouts. Including operating costs, they underpaid by at least $30 million dollars.

“That’s a $30 million dollar subsidy to the drivers from just one downtown Vancouver postal code, for one year.”

READ MORE: Freedom of information campaign on ICBC rates started

Repen said he was also concerned with a message on FOI requests that went out after the first two were received cautioning against sharing the information without permission from ICBC.

“Please contact your ICBC representative if you want to share any portions of the data with other parties for which the report was not originally intended. Any intentional violation of this policy may result in discipline,” the disclaimer reads.

Repen feels the warning is inappropriate. “They’ve been well aware all along [that] we were doing a coordinated FOI campaign.”

He added he feels the message itself is contrary to spirit of FOI requests.

Lindsay Wilkins, a spokesperson for ICBC, said that was not the intent of the disclaimer.

“In regards to the disclaimer, this FOI report is approved for use by a member of the public (for public use) so there are no concerns with the recipient sharing it publicly,” she wrote by email. “We’ll review our wording for clarity.”

At their June 25 meeting, Smithers town council voted unanimously to write a letter to Attorney General David Eby and Minister of Rural Development Doug Donaldson, to formally request a public review of ICBC’s policy when setting insurance premium prices for rural B.C.

READ MORE: Former Telkwa mayor says Smithers is overpaying on ICBC insurance

Repen also requested council petition the federal NDP candidate in the upcoming election to raise the issue of amending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to address discrimination based on geographical location or residence within the party and to request action of Eby, Donaldson and Premier John Horgan on “discriminatory rural ICBC rates.”

Council did not see fit to bring this second request to a motion, with Coun. Lorne Benson noting the spirit seemed somewhat contradictory to the first one.

“The tone of the letter is to seek information whereas this suggestion is more of an assumption that there is some degree of rural discrimination involved, and we don’t know that,” Benson said.

Repen said that because he was only able to include data from the first two FOI requests — postal codes for Telkwa and Smithers — into the submissions to council for that meeting, he understands their concern about the data not painting a large enough picture. He said he plans to address them in detail at their July 23 meeting.

In a June 21 email to Repen, Eby said that ICBC is already in the midst of a regulatory overhaul that will redefine how both territorial and individual insurance rates are set.

“Redrawing territories is a very large undertaking requiring careful and thoughtful analysis, followed by regulatory approval,” the letter reads.

“Currently, government and ICBC’s efforts are focused on implementing [changes] that will net $1 billion a year in savings. Those changes include the limit to pain and suffering payouts for minor injury claims, improved accident benefits and care for customers who are injured in a crash, as well as the use of the Civil Resolution Tribunal to resolve disputes.”

The letter adds that ICBC will not be in a position to begin any further analysis on splitting the province into separate rates for rural and urban areas, or applying premium rates by postal codes (two suggestions Repen had for reconfiguring the system, as opposed to the currently-proposed adjustment of territorial rates over the next 10 years).

An assistant from Donaldson’s office confirmed his position was in line with Eby’s above email.

ICBC has previously told The Interior News that significant changes coming to how it calculates insurance rates this September will result in two-thirds of drivers across the province paying less than they are today.

“While it’s true that where you live is one of the factors we consider when calculating your premium, it is not the most significant factor – how little or how much you pay in our new model will be based more heavily on your years of driving experience and crash history,” said Joanna Linsangan, spokesperson for ICBC, in an email.

“While we have no immediate plans to re-examine the boundaries for our existing rating territories, we have made adjustments to the territory factor in response to the changes in population and infrastructure. Starting September of this year, Telkwa residents will see a decrease of 3.5 per cent to their territory factor and the decreases will continue over 10 years totalling approximately 30 per cent.”

Repen said that while he is prepared to keep fighting for more data, he had hoped that the trends from the data he and others had already requested would inspire change.

“I don’t really think that Attorney General Eby or Minister Donaldson really knew that this was going on until we brought it forward and now I think their challenge is ICBC doing this massive other review and revamp of how they’re going to charge premiums and this is another thing that’s landed on [their] plate.”



trevor.hewitt@interior-news.com

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