Business

Car insurance industry promises rebates amid COVID-19 lockdowns

Canada's insurance industry is promising rebates and relief for customers struggling to keep up with their bills amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Allstate, La Capitale have announced details of their program

Canada's roads are a lot less busy of late with so many Canadians under lockdown, prompting the insurance industry to offer rebates on some car insurance bills. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Canada's insurance industry is promising rebates and relief for customers struggling to keep up with their bills amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, which speaks on behalf of insurance companies, says its members are offering "substantial consumer relief measures" that they think will add up to $600 million worth of rebates and discounts.

"This is an incredibly challenging and uncertain time for many Canadians," CEO Don Forgeron said. "Insurers want to help alleviate some of the financial burden for the most vulnerable. Insurers understand that many drivers are no longer commuting or using their vehicle as regularly, which could result in savings."

Justin Thouin, founder and CEO of Lowestrates.ca says cuts make sense considering how much less of a risk the insurers are taking on. "Accident claims are often the biggest cost auto insurance companies deal with, and so with those costs expected to remain lower in the coming weeks and months, companies are going to continue to pass those savings onto consumers," he said.

While the IBC announcement stops well short of an across-the-board rate reduction, some insurers have come out with details of their own programs.

Allstate Canada says it will be refunding its car insurance customers $30 million on their May bills in the form of a one-time "stay at home payment" of roughly 25 per cent.

'Help right now'

"We recognize that with fewer people driving, there are fewer collisions on our roads," CEO Ryan Michel said. "As a result, we are giving more than $30 million back to our customers. It's simply the right thing to do."

The move comes on the heels of a similar program unveiled by Allstate's U.S. parent earlier this week that will see an across-the-board cut of 15 per cent to all car insurance premiums. Other U.S. insurers, including Geico and Liberty Mutual, have announced similar programs.

Toronto-based insurer Aviva said customers who have stopped driving entirely could be eligible for a reduction in their premium of up to 75 per cent on their bills, while any drivers who are still driving in some capacity will likely qualify for a reduction of less than that.

"Canadians need help right now," Aviva CEO Jason Storah said of the program that the company says will mean up to $100 million in savings. "We are all in this together."

Quebec-based insurer La Capitale announced a similar program on Tuesday, with a rebate of approximately 20 per cent.

"The collective effort by Quebec residents to respect the COVID-19 confinement measures is having a tangible impact on the frequency of automobile losses," CEO Jean St-Gelais said. "This reduction in risk should be reflected in the premium our insureds pay."

Quebec-based credit union Desjardins also announced relief for any of their customers who have lost their jobs or are otherwise not driving as much because they are self-isolating. Desjardins' release didn't not offer any guideline of what level of discount customers can expect.

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