Small Business Seeks Relief

By Barbara Aarsteinsen, editor,
ci – Canadian Insurance Magazine

(reprinted with permission, May issue)

Upset about steep increases and tougher terms, confused
about why coverage has become so much more expensive and harder to get, small business
owners are gearing up to give insurers a piece of their mind.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is
surveying its 100,000-strong membership on insurance issues, looking to get a handle on
the rising tide of complaints and turn the mounting anecdotal evidence into documentation
of how the hard market is hurting its constituency.

“Even before Sept. 11 there was an increasing
crescendo about rates and coverage and all that. And then post- Sept. 11, it took off and
became a lion’s roar,” says CFIB senior vice president Brien Gray. “This is
something that is really impacting our sector and we felt we had to go and try to measure
it and take appropriate action.

“It’s also a pervasive problem for us because I
can’t think of a firm without some form of property and casualty insurance. It
touches every business out there.”

Gray says that the 13-question survey was put together
“with the collaboration but not necessarily the consent,” of the Insurance
Bureau of Canada and the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada. Responses, he adds, are
“coming in at a good clip” and are expected to continue to pour in through early summer.
He says that the results will hopefully lead to “some fairly strong, specific recommendations.”

Rising costs and difficulty getting coverage are the two
major bones of contention, Gray says. He explains that CFIB members don’t understand
the kinds of increases they’re being hit with and there are suspicions of
“profit-taking,” that the insurance industry is perhaps taking unfair advantage
of Sept. 11 as an excuse to hike rates.

“It’s not simply a matter of communication.
Explaining why these things are happening is useful but there is a much bigger
communication problem here,” Gray argues. “The insurance industry doesn’t
do anything for years but then whacks the market – that’s counter-intuitive to most of our members.

“They understand that people at risk have to pay for
terrorist attacks but ask why are they whacking me?” he says. “If there is any
profit-taking going on, then that’s unacceptable.”