Nova Scotia

Stuck at home because of COVID-19? You might get a partial refund on your car insurance

Many of Canada’s auto insurers are reducing premiums and deferring payments for people impacted by COVID-19. Here's what you need to know to get money back.

'The risk profile had changed, there wasn't as much risk and the premiums ought to reflect that'

Windsor, N.S., resident Rebecca Richardson says she had no problem getting her car insurance premium reduced. (Ned Kelleher)

Like many Canadians, Rebecca Richardson of Windsor, N.S., and her partner are no longer driving back and forth to work or leaving their home frequently.

On Monday, she called TD Insurance to see if their auto insurance premium would be going down because of this.

"He said 'Oh, yes, absolutely. You're not driving as many kilometres anymore, so we will absolutely reduce it,'" Richardson said.

She was told their premium would reduce by $232 per year, but that would change when there is an increase in the number of kilometres they drive.

"He said, 'Just call us when you're back to work and we'll put it back to what it used to be,'" Richardson said. "No charge, no fees, no nothing."

Traffic on Canadian roadways has decreased because of people staying at home due to COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

She was told the reduction was effective from the date of her call and could not be applied retroactively.

Richardson said she called her insurer after seeing a post on social media.

Since then, many of Canada's auto insurers have announced reduced premiums — one is even sending cheques — to compensate drivers for their reduced travel.

How do you get a reduced rate?

Each insurance company has its own process, but many have COVID-19 information on their website.

Some, like Intact, have a dedicated website. The company said it is considering each request on a case-by-case basis, but is offering premium adjustments for people who are driving less, as well as deferred payments and waiving fees for missed payments.

"Intact encourages customers who are experiencing financial hardships to reach out through their broker, Intact Insurance or belairdirect to discuss the following relief measures," spokesperson Jennifer Beaudry said in an email to CBC News.

In the U.S., Allstate was the first major auto insurer to announce it was issuing refunds to drivers.

Allstate Canada announced April 8 that it was introducing a "Stay at Home Payment" program of more than $30 million to help its personal auto insurance customers.

In a news release, the company said cheques would be mailed out in May for Allstate, Pembridge and Pafco customers who had an auto policy as of April 8. The one-time payment would work out to about 25 per cent of their monthly premium.

Aviva announced it is offering $100 million in relief measures for drivers, including a 75 per cent reduction in premiums for people who have stopped driving completely.

$600M in savings to customers

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, the national industry association representing some private insurers, announced Wednesday its members were reducing premiums for the next 90 days that "could result in $600 million in savings to consumers."

"We've been working on this for several weeks now," IBC president Don Forgeron said, noting there are fewer cars on the roads, as many vehicles that were once driving to and from work are now parked.

"It was clear that the risk profile had changed, there wasn't as much risk and the premiums ought to reflect that," Forgeron said.

He said prior to the April 8 announcement, thousands of people already had their premiums reduced or their payments deferred after contacting their insurance companies.

Don Forgeron, president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says thousands of Canadians have already had their auto insurance premiums reduced in the past two weeks. (Insurance Bureau of Canada)

Forgeron said people who are driving less should contact their broker, agent or insurance company to discuss reduced premiums.

He said many insurance staff are working from home, so people need to be patient and understand that each company may have different reductions.

Ken Whitehurst, the executive director of the Consumers Council of Canada, said it is understandable that insurance companies would look at reducing rates considering the current situation.

"It certainly will earn them some goodwill if they can pass some of those savings on to consumers at this time," he said.

"It's always good news for consumers to get a price reduction, but the challenge is how do consumers know what an appropriate reduction is."