"Fairness office" to be created to improve accountability and transparency at ICBC

Jan 29 2020, 11:25 am

The provincial government has revealed several new initiatives that are meant to “increase accountability and transparency at ICBC.” The announcement was made on Wednesday morning by BC’s Attorney General and the CEO of ICBC, and is highlighted by a new “Fairness Office.”

The office will hear individual complaints from customers and will be required to review and make recommendations to ICBC regarding policy and process. The office will be appointed by the cabinet and is said to be more independent from ICBC.

They’ll also be required to report the type and number of issues that they receive. Recommendations will also need to be shared with the public and must be written in plain language. In turn, ICBC will also need to report publicly on any actions that they take to respond to said recommendations.

“British Columbians should have the peace of mind that they will be treated fairly after they’ve been injured in a crash,” says Attorney General David Eby, in Wednesday’s conference. “With this change, British Columbians can have confidence that the Fairness Office has greater independence from ICBC and has the impartial authority to review the fairness of their situation with the ability to make recommendations to ICBC.”

Eby adds that while a current “fairness office” already exists, it doesn’t meet the standards that the provincial government and ICBC are aiming for. He also notes that this new office will not overlap with the role of the ombudsperson.

It’s also important to note that the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) will also continue to work to resolve any disputes involving ICBC. According to a statement from the provincial government, the CRT will handle disagreements involving “minor injury determinations, accident benefit entitlement, fault determinations, and claimed amounts of $50,000 and under.” Anything else will be handled by the Fairness Office.

“It’s no secret that British Columbians don’t’ trust ICBC,” says Eby. “We’re taking on transparency, trust, and accountability at ICBC.”

The new “fairness office” will be in place by Spring 2021 and will be formalized by legislation in Fall 2020.

Plain language reporting to the public

Another initiative that was introduced on Wednesday morning includes plain language reporting from ICBC to the public.

ICBC will be required to “produce a customer-friendly summary” of its annual report, which will allow customers to “see how their premium dollars are spent.”

“Auto insurance is often complex and it’s not understandable,” says Eby. “I’m directing ICBC to produce a plain language version of its annual report. The reader-friendly report will be published with the regular report each July.”

Pre-litigation payments

The provincial government has also announced that pre-litigation payments will be offered to those who are injured in motor vehicle accidents. Anyone who is injured and qualifies can accept the payments without having to waive their ability to sue.

In the past, should an injured person choose to take ICBC’s settlement, they would be unable to seek additional settlement money through legal action.

“The intent of this program is to help injured customers receive full and fair compensation as quickly as possible,” reads a government statement. “It will also help those injured keep moe of their settlement, instead of passing it to a lawyer and legal fees.”

Eby explains that in the “best-case scenario,” pre-litigation payments will result in savings by “averting unnecessary court battles.” At a minimum, they’re expected to be cost-neutral.

ICBC will have the ability to offer pre-litigation payments as of January 29,2020, and the initiative will be formalized through legislation in the spring.