Brokers hit out at “Trumpian” IBC campaign

Insurer group accused of "politicking" and riling up the public

Brokers hit out at “Trumpian” IBC campaign

Motor & Fleet

By Jen Frost

Brokers may agree with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) that Ontario auto insurance reform is sorely needed, but some have hit out at the latter’s recent campaign on the matter and accused it of “Trumpian” tactics.

The IBC-sponsored online Fairness For Drivers campaign has faced criticism from brokers, who feel that it paints the insurance industry in a bad light and could confuse consumers.

“The problem comes in this very blunt instrument that they're using to infuriate the public, to really use the public as their tool to drag the politicians to the table, and I think that's misleading and underhanded,” said Adam Mitchell, CEO of Mitch Insurance.

“It almost feels like Trumpian politics, and it just makes me really disappointed in the industry and I would like to think we would do better.”

The IBC has been calling for Ontario auto insurance reform, including through greater choice and “flexibility” for consumers as well as tackling claims costs. Via a website and a social media campaign, which includes Instagram posts, it has called on individuals to write to their MPPs to demand change.

“The car insurance system in Ontario is broken,” according to text from the Fairness For Drivers website.

Drivers in Ontario pay up to 30% more than the national average for their car insurance, according to one campaign Instagram post. Another highlighted that “$1.4 BILLION every year is wasted because of the inefficiencies of Ontario’s car insurance system”.

Social media posts from the IBC sponsored campaign have flagged that Ontarians could be paying “on avergae [sic] $500 or more for their car insurance”, while another post said that this “could mean one month of gas for your car.” Recent posts have focused on the upcoming Ontario March 23 budget.

Other Fairness For Drivers social media posts have compared the cost of insurance in Ontario to that in different provinces. Comparison to areas including Prince Edward Island, where premiums could be 50% cheaper according to the IBC promotion, have drawn broker ire.

“I really just dislike that they're trying to rile people up by misleading them, comparing apples to oranges to get a reaction that a politician has to respond to,” Mitchell said.

The broker boss likened the campaign to “just like whispering chocolate chip cookie to your two-year-old before dinner – it’s not going to go well”.

While there are “real conversations to be had” around fraud costs driving up premiums and coverage options, the IBC has gone the wrong way about bringing the debate into the public domain, Sutherland Insurance VP Zac Sutherland told Insurance Business.

“It's the politicking thing for me that really stands out,” Sutherland said. “We all saw the last example of politicking on Ontario auto rates resulting in a promise of 15%, and by year two, everyone forgot and they revoked it.”

Labelling insurance “one of the most misunderstood products” in the country, Sutherland stressed a need for continued education rather than “gimmicks”.

“What's the end game to move the needle to get real reform?” Sutherland said. “I think that's what everyone wants, but this is an interesting way to do it.”

Brokers also pointed out that while Ontario auto insurance costs may be higher, coverage options are typically “generous”.

“We've got the highest coverage limits, the highest minimums, so naturally, it follows if we've got the most coverage, of course it's going to cost you the most money,” said Thomas Watson, Guardsman Insurance Services president.

While Watson said he agreed with what the IBC was trying to achieve, he said he felt that “how they've chosen to go about getting public buy in makes the entire insurance industry look bad”.

For Watson, the focus needs to be firmly on tackling auto insurance fraud.

“We're not addressing that problem correctly,” he said.

IBC responds

The IBC declined to share figures or stats to show how successful the campaign had been when approached by Insurance Business.

Of the 125 Instagram posts shared by the Fairness For Drivers account, which began posting more than a year ago, Insurance Business found just seven that had been ‘liked’ by users 10 or more times. As of Tuesday, a tracker on its website said “15,000 Ontarians and counting”.

The IBC also declined to share how much it had spent on the campaign or who was running it on the insurer group’s behalf.

In a statement provided to Insurance Business, the IBC said that the “small, targeted campaign” was intended to encourage the Ontario government to introduce auto product changes.

“We believe Ontarians deserve more affordable auto insurance with more choice and better care for those injured in a collision,” the IBC said. “The province’s nearly 10 million drivers spend more of their household budget on auto insurance than drivers in any other province and it's time that changed.”

It added: “This campaign highlights shortcomings of the current auto product in Ontario, and in no way ascribes blame to any parties, including insurers, governments, and brokers.

“IBC and the P&C insurance industry remain strongly committed to supporting the Ontario government in its efforts to meet consumer demands for lower costs and greater choice for auto insurance.”

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