Januray 13, 2005, Newfoundland — Government Services Minister Dianne Whalen is encouraging everyone to make their views known during the upcoming public hearings that will provide the future direction of insurance in this province.
The Public Utilities Board is preparing to begin the public hearings that government directed be undertaken as part of its comprehensive review of insurance. The board announced this week that it has completed the necessary studies and is now ready to proceed with hearings into auto insurance, with hearings into homeowner, commercial and marine insurance to follow.
“We committed in March 2004 to a comprehensive review of insurance in this province. We began by freezing auto insurance rates until a public hearing could be held to provide government with further direction,” Minister Whalen said. “These hearings are part of our commitment to ensuring affordable and accessible insurance rates for the people of the province.”
Government has already legislated an average overall reduction of 15 per cent on auto insurance premiums, based on the savings identified in an actuarial report completed for this government shortly after taking office. These reforms took effect August 1, 2004.
The Public Utilities Board has now completed a study into the savings of various deductibles and caps and is finalizing further information government requested be compiled for the hearing, such as the elimination of rating based on age, gender and marital status. The study into the costs associated with recent auto insurance claims is also now complete. These studies can be found on the board�s Web site at www.pub.nl.ca
“We are taking a comprehensive approach to reviewing insurance issues in this province, while at the same time freezing rates and providing savings that we have already identified to consumers on their auto insurance premiums,” Minister Whalen said. “Accessible and affordable insurance is a priority of the people of the province, and our actions on this file since taking office demonstrate that we are listening to what people are saying.”
The public hearing process is to get feedback and input from consumers and other interested groups on these issues. Government has appointed a consumer advocate, Tom Johnson, to represent consumers at the hearings. The board will announce the locations for the hearings and the dates shortly.
Government expects to receive the report on the hearing process for the auto insurance portion from the Public Utilities Board in March. Government will then review the report to determine what, if any, additional measures can be taken. Any required legislative changes would be introduced in the House as soon as possible.
Anyone wanting to bring their auto insurance concerns forward at this first set of hearings can do so in a number of ways, including attending one of the public sessions, sending comments directly to the Public Utilities Board by mail, e-mail or fax, or by filling out an on-line feedback form.
Public Utilities Board, Automobile Insurance Review
P.O. Box 21040
St. John�s, NL, A1A 5B2
Fax: (709) 726-9604
Leave a voice message: 1-866-782-0006
On-line form: www.pub.nl.ca
Individuals can also contact the consumer advocate to raise issues at the hearing on their behalf. Mr. Johnson can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 5955, St. John�s, NL, A1C 5X4; e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 1-866-218-4559.
As part of government�s comprehensive approach to reviewing insurance, government is also addressing several other issues which fall outside the Terms of Reference of the Public Utilities Board review. These include stiffer penalties for impaired drivers; penalties for false testimony; disclosure by insurance companies of injured parties under surveillance, and the process by which rates are set.