Auto insurance rates dip in 2012, report shows
Average premium $720, down from $731, consumer advocate says
New Brunswick saw another slight decrease in auto insurance rates last year, marking the eighth consecutive year of falling rates, according to the province's consumer advocate for insurance.
The average premium for private passenger automobiles was about $720, down from $731 in 2011, Ronald Godin stated in his annual report.
The auto insurance market has shown continued stability since the provincial government introduced reforms in 2003, Godin has said. Prior to that, rates averaged more than $1,100, he said.
Those reforms included implementing a $2,500-cap on payouts for minor injuries.
The provincial government is expected to increase the amount of the cap to $7,500 in May and change the definition of minor injury to allow more people in serious accidents to seek higher levels of compensation.
"It is expected that changes can be absorbed by the industry without any resulting increase in premiums charged to consumers," Godin stated in the 22-page report.
Home premiums still unregulated
Meanwhile, Godin's office continued to hear concerns from consumers about rising home insurance premiums in 2012.
"It has been a growing issue over the past few years," he said.
Earlier this month, Godin told CBC News a growing number of New Brunswickers are struggling to pay home insurance premiums, which are currently unregulated in the province.
About half of the 40 insurance companies in New Brunswick are still using customers' credit scores to set higher premiums, Godin noted.
"Legislation that would ban or regulate the use of credit scores for underwriting purposes in all types of insurance has been supported by successive governments since 2010, but legislation to that effect has not been brought forward to this date," Godin said.
The insurance industry has also expressed concern about the increased frequency and severity of weather-related damage, he said.
It's unclear whether this is just a passing occurrence or a new trend that will continue over the coming years, Godin said.
Opposed to office changes
Godin also used the annual report to lobby for the survival of his office.
In December 2011, Bernard Richard, the former provincial ombudsman and child and youth advocate, recommended the consumer advocate for insurance be folded into the Office of the Ombudsman by Jan. 1, 2015.
Godin said he is "opposed to these recommendations or any" that would "undermine" his office.
The consumer advocate handled 1,172 cases in 2012.
Of those, more than half, 600, were related to auto insurance, he said. Home insurance represented 326 of the cases, while 37 involved "other" property and casualty matters.
Life and health insurance accounted for 181 of the calls, and 28 were non-insurance related.
More than half of the cases were related to claims, about 30 per cent involved premiums and 19 per cent were seeking information.
The New Brunswick government established the consumer advocate for insurance in 2005 as a part of a series of insurance reforms created in the wake of skyrocketing automobile insurance premiums.