The 2014 Ontario Budget outlined a number of commitments, however many are initiatives that have been previously been announced.
Auto Insurance Cost and Rate Reduction Strategy
The government indicates that the rate reduction strategy is on target and average rates will be 8% lower by August 2014 and 15% lower by August 2015. However, the document does not point to any specific initiative that will specifically work towards achieving those targets. Average rates are down 5.6% as of the end of the first quarter of 2014. In addition, the government points to the recently released “Automobile Insurance Transparency and Accountability Report” which highlighted that, without these reforms, insurance rates would have needed to increase significantly.
Transforming the Dispute Resolution System and Fighting Fraud to Reduce Rates
In March 2014, the government introduced Bill 171, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014. The Bill proposes a number of initiatives to address barriers to rate reductions. The Bill includes legislative amendments for the transformation of the dispute resolution system, and further action to crack down on fraud and abuse, as well as other cost-saving measures. The government is building on the steps it has taken by developing a dedicated investigation and prosecution office on serious fraud, with an initial focus on auto insurance fraud. The development of this fraud office would be based on the Task Force’s principle that fraudsters should be vigorously pursued and prosecuted where evidence warrants.
Addressing Towing, Vehicle Storage and Collision Repair Practices
The government has introduced legislation to regulate the towing industry.
The government has taken action to address storage-fee issues by introducing legislative amendments as part of Bill 171 that would provide regulation-making authority for the determination of vehicle storage periods and fair value regarding daily fees.
As part of the next phase of this initiative, the Province will continue consulting to address issues of fraud and abuse relating to collision repair practices. There are initiatives that are in progress and are not new initiatives.
Increasing Automobile Insurance Transparency and Accountability
The government has retained an independent third party to provide annual Automobile Insurance Transparency and Accountability Expert Reports to assess its efforts to reduce auto insurance costs and rates. An interim report was delivered to the Minister of Finance in April 2014, and annual reports will be delivered in August of each year of the Strategy. The reports will also assess the industry’s efforts to lower costs and pass on savings to drivers.
The interim report highlights that further action is needed to support the government’s Cost and Rate Reduction Strategy. The report also concludes it is important that insurers continue working to achieve efficiencies and reduce costs in the auto insurance system through initiatives such as better claim management, more sophisticated pricing methods (such as usage-based insurance) and improved fraud-prevention practices.
Rewarding Safe Drivers: Usage-Based Insurance
The government is encouraging insurance companies to offer consumers usage-based insurance, which uses technology to identify and offer discounts for safe driving habits.
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has already communicated key consumer protection requirements to the insurance industry, and many companies have implemented or are planning to implement usage-based insurance.