Former Telkwa mayor and provincial election candidate Darcy Repen is hoping to take his fight against disparity in rural-urban ICBC rates to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).
Repen has long suspected rural rate payers are being overcharged on premiums compared to compensation received in claims settlements.
In 2019 and 2020, Repen launched a Freedom of Information (FOI) campaigns enlisting other area residents to submit FOI requests to the provincial insurer on a postal code by postal code basis.
This was to get around the prohibitive costs of filing for all postal codes simultaneously.
The results, which covered approximately 500,000 rural residents and more than 1 million urban residents, confirmed the rural-urban disparity, he said.
“The reports reinforced the results of the first FOI campaign, demonstrating conclusively that rural policyholders are paying over 40 per cent more than urban customers per dollar received in claims settlements,” he said in an emailed update to supporters of his campaign.
He added he has submitted an FOI request for data from all postal codes in the province asking for fees to be waived based on a Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) resolution passed at the 2020 conference calling for ICBC to release the data.
He has applied for intervenor status in the upcoming rate application.
ICBC has, in fact, applied for a 15 per cent decrease in rates made possible by legislation passed by the previous NDP government that removes most of the legal fees associated with the formerly litigation-based claims system.
ICBC claims this will save all drivers 20 per cent on average on their auto insurance, which will take effect May 1 if the rate application is approved by BCUC.
While Repen acknowledges those savings, it does not address the rural-urban disparity and he intends to bring this up in the upcoming BCUC hearings.
“I have the support of an experienced intervenor and retired senior government bureaucrat, who will be guiding me through the process,” he said.
“I believe this may be our best chance to force ICBC to correct this unfair burden on BC’s rural drivers and families.”
Repen said he was disappointed he was not able to get any support or even a clear explanation from former Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson.
He may have an ally, though, in the current MLA. Nathan Cullen said fairness in the system is something he is willing to investigate.
“That’s something I’m curious to look at and start to break down the numbers and how the policies are and what the rationalizations are coming for the corp,” he said.
“It’s something I want to take a deeper look on, for sure.”