Auto insurance rate cuts will vary greatly, data show

New figures show many New Brunswick drivers will receive a 13.5 per cent cut in their auto insurance next year, although some will get substantially more than that.

Some New Brunswick drivers will enjoy a reduction in their auto insurance premiums next year much greaterthan the percentage announced on Monday, new figures show.

New Brunswick Justice Minister T.J. Burke announcedMonday that drivers in the province would receive "average" reductions of 13.5 per cent on their car insurance by March 2007, but information released by the New Brunswick Insurance Board this week shows the actual discount will vary greatly from company to company.

The Liberal government had promised to either bring rates down within 60 days of being elected orcreate a public auto insurance system. That deadline arrived Sunday, and the deal to keep private auto insurance in New Brunswick was made public on Monday.

However, the insurance board had already approved rate reductions for many companies.

In decisions made on Nov. 9 but kept secret until this week, the board approved 2007 rates for 38 car insurers in the province. Those rates bring premiums down an average of only 7.6 per cent; Burke has ordered another 5.9 per centbe added.

But the 7.6-per-centreduction was not uniform from company to company.

For example, AXA Insurance, the sixth largest seller of auto insurancein the province, applied for and was granted a 2007 reduction of just 1.7 per centin its rates.

Reductions less than advertised

Even if the government forces that down another 5.9 per cent, customers of AXA will see a reduction next year of 7.6 per cent, well below the average cited by Burke.

Customers of ING, Economical, Royaland Sun Alliance, State Farm, Dominion, Unifund and other companies will also be seeing reductions of less than 13.5 per cent.

However, drivers carrying policies with Allstate will see huge discounts.The board ordered the insurance giantto lower rates by 18.35 per centnext year, even before Monday's announcement.If 5.9 per centwere added on to that, Allstate customers should see their rates drop by nearly double the average.

The board ordered Wawanesa, the largest seller of auto insurance in New Brunswick, to lower its rates by 7.9 per cent, but it will now have to bump that to 13.5 per cent.

Wawanesa president Gregg Hanson said the company will comply with the government order butsaid it is"unfortunate that they felt compelled to circumvent the province's own existing independent body, the New Brunswick Insurance Board," Hanson said

Wawanesa has reported $700 million in pre-tax profit over its last 12 quarters, its bestthree-year period ever.The company says its highest profit margins were achieved in the Maritimes, where 40 per cent of its business comes directly from New Brunswick auto insurance.