Manitoba

MPI loses battle with utilities board over change to insurance premiums

Manitoba Public Insurance lost a court battle with the Public Utilities Board, and now some drivers may find themselves paying more — or even less — for future insurance premiums.

Insurer will now adopt primary driver model instead of current registered owner model

Pedestrian crosses road with umbrella as cars wait in light spring snow.
Drivers with higher safety ratings could see savings on insurance premiums if they're the primary driver of a vehicle once Manitoba Public Insurance implements changes directed by the Public Utilities Board. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba Public Insurance lost a court battle with the Public Utilities Board, and now some drivers may find themselves paying more — or even less — for future insurance premiums.

MPI took the PUB, which is tasked with setting rates that are just and reasonable, to court over a directive the utilities board gave to adopt the primary driver model instead of the current registered owner model.

Currently when a Manitoba driver pays for vehicle insurance, their rate and any discounts are based on the driving history of the registered owner of the vehicle regardless of who is driving it.

The PUB wanted MPI to prepare to change its system to a primary driver model. It would mean Manitoba residents would pay their vehicle insurance rates based on the history of the primary driver instead of the registered owner.

The change could bring significant savings to primary drivers who have a record of clean driving in the province and score high on the driver safety rating scale while the opposite would be true for drivers in the red.

Drivers at the top of MPI's safety rating scale can save up to 37 per cent on their annual insurance while those with past infractions or claims could see no savings at all. The difference translates into potentially hundreds of dollars in extra vehicle insurance fees.

Account for actual drivers: Intervenor

The Coalition of Manitoba Motorcycle Groups has been advocating for the change and was an intervenor in the case arguing the current system is not fair.

"It will never account for the people who are actually driving the vehicle, and the people who are driving the vehicle are the people who are causing accidents on the road," coalition lawyer Charlotte Meek said in an interview.

"This is an issue for all ratepayers. Good drivers are subsidizing bad drivers."

Court of Appeal Justice Freda Steel rejected the insurer's request to appeal the PUB's directive that MPI develop a five-year plan for the eventual implementation of the primary driver model.

"The challenge to the PUB's jurisdiction over the methodology underlying the DSR [driver safety rating] system has no reasonable prospect of success," Steel wrote in an Oct. 19 decision.

Steel's decision said only Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. assess risk and premiums using the registered owner model, while private North American insurers utilize the primary driver model.

MPI didn't plan immediate change

Earlier this year, MPI said it planned to keep using the current model and wouldn't be making any changes for the next five years.

"It felt that any significant change to this model would create large rate dislocation and require significant regulatory changes, as well as significant information technology (IT) changes," Steel's decision says.

The PUB said MPI failed to obey several previous directives it gave the Crown corporation.

"When the [PUB] issues directives [MPI] may choose to file a request for variance or seek leave to appeal from the Manitoba Court of Appeal. [MPI] may not simply refuse or fail to comply with the directive," the PUB stated.

MPI applied to appeal the PUB's directive arguing it wasn't simply an information-seeking but rather a mandatory order beyond the utility' board's jurisdiction.

Steel found the proposed ground of appeal didn't warrant the court's attention.

She acknowledged there may be difficulties in implementing the new model, as MPI raised concerns about privacy if it were required to obtain the identities and driving records of primary drivers.

MPI spokesperson Kristy Rydz said the public insurer wouldn't appeal the decision and has provided the information requested by the PUB.

"Going forward, MPI will continue to work collaboratively with the PUB toward a driver safety rating model that is both actuarially sound and provides the greatest value for Manitobans," she said in an email.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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