Ontario Auditor General will Revisit Auto Insurance Watchdog this Summer Regarding High Premiums

Update: see previous posts – March 2, 2103 Ontario: If Auto-Insurance Premiums Are Not Lowered, Ontarians May Face Spring Election, February 5, 2013 Ontario: Time to Reduce Auto-Insurance Premiums for All Ontario Drivers, August 29, 2010 Auto Insurance Companies Whine about Medical Costs, August 22, 2010 Auto Insurance Rules Change September 1, 2010 (Ontario), November 13, 2009 Home Insurance Skyrockets in Ontario, November 5, 2009 Liberals Take Care of Ontario’s Auto Insurance Companies, October 5, 2009 Ontario Liberals Support Auto Insurance Profits, July 19, 2009 Insurance Rates Skyrocket in Ontario, June 11, 2009 Insurance Companies exercise discrimination due to “perceived genetic risks”., May 18, 2009 Ontario Auto Insurance – Reducing Accident Benefits from 100 to 25 Thousand Dollars.

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Following are some of the Auditor General’s other significant observations: • The total cost of auto insurance injury claims in Ontario rose by 150% between 2005 and 2010, even though the actual number of injury claims rose only 30% over the same period. • FSCO offers a mediation service for people who disagree with settlement offers from insurers, but since about half of all injury claims end up in mediation, the service is so backlogged that dispute resolution takes 10 to 12 months rather than the legislated 60 days. • FSCO had not routinely obtained assurances from insurance companies that they had paid the proper amounts for claims. Without such assurances, there is an increased risk of unnecessarily high payouts, which could help insurers get FSCO approval for higher premium increases.
Following are some of Ontario’s Auditor General, Jim McCarter’s 2011 Annual Report other significant observations:

The total cost of auto insurance injury claims in Ontario rose by 150% between 2005 and 2010, even
though the actual number of injury claims rose only 30% over the same period.

FSCO offers a mediation service for people who disagree with settlement offers from insurers, but
since about half of all injury claims end up in mediation, the service is so backlogged that dispute
resolution takes 10 to 12 months rather than the legislated 60 days.

FSCO had not routinely obtained assurances from insurance companies that they had paid the
proper amounts for claims. Without such assurances, there is an increased risk of unnecessarily high
payouts, which could help insurers get FSCO approval for higher premium increases.

Ontario’s auditor general says the province’s auto insurance industry watchdog has some explaining to do.

Jim McCarter told the Star Monday his office will do a follow-up audit of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario in June or July to determine what it is doing to protect consumers against high premiums.

“We want to know what Financial Services Commission of Ontario is doing (regarding) overseeing insurance companies,” McCarter said, including looking at whether they are “making money hand over foot.”

His 2011 annual report noted that motorists in the GTA were paying the highest premiums in the country and recommended that FSCO implement more frequent reviews of the auto insurance industry and increase requests.

“Being suspicious characters, we always want to go in and sniff around,” said McCarter, who has previously stated that an overhaul of the formula that decides premiums is “long overdue.”

Among other things, FSCO offers a mediation service for people who disagree with settlement offers from insurers. The audit stated the service is so backlogged that dispute resolution takes 10 to 12 months rather than the legislated 60 days.

Critics say the auto industry has seen an annual $2 billion windfall since the Liberal government introduced reforms in 2010 that sharply reduced accident benefits.

Meanwhile, the minority Liberal government is still awaiting a report almost a year later from FSCO analyzing auto insurance industry profit. The New Democrats on Monday mistakenly accused the government of sitting on the report.

“It should be out soon,” said a finance ministry official.

The New Democrats are demanding the minority Liberal government move to cut auto insurance premium by 15 per cent in this year’s budget or face a possible election.

The New Democrats on Monday cited an independent actuarial analysis done for the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association that shows government changes to auto insurance rules have said the saved the industry $2 billion annually in drastically lower benefit payouts.

“If we are losing the benefits that we receive as consumers, why wasn’t that tied into a guaranteed that the premiums would come down?” MPP Jagmeet Singh told reporters.

According to a Forum Research poll carried in the Star last week, 58 per cent of respondents agreed an election should be triggered over auto insurance premiums.

“I think people are quite upset with the fact we are paying the highest rates in the country,” Singh said. “We want to see immediate relief for families.”

 

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