ICBC Under Pressure to Lower Costs in Every Area

To many auto glass company owners in the U.S., the prospect of a government insurance company might seem to bring together the "worst" of both worlds. Yet that is exactly what the provincially-owned Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is-a company providing most of the auto insurance in the Canadian province of British Columbia while being owned by its government.

ICBC faces some conditions unlike any other in North America, and experts say these conditions may have led to an increased desire to lower costs for contracted auto body and auto glass repair.

BC's most populated area, Surrey, has the highest rate of automobile theft in all of North America and very high rates of vehicle break-ins. This has led ICBC to raise deductibles paid by most customers for comprehensive claims including theft, fire, vandalism and auto glass replacement.

And the spotlight has indeed been on AGR expense. An article in the July 18th issue of the Surrey Leader newspaper quoted Dave Shields, a foreman at a Speedy location in BC as saying that car thieves will smash and grab from a car, wait a week or two until the stereo and other valuables have been replaced, then hit the same vehicle again. "Sometimes we see the same customer three times in a row, but it's not his fault his car is getting vandalized," Shields is quoted as saying. "People can't help where they live."

In January, ICBC began the process of notifying 5,000 of their policyholders that their deductibles would be going up from $300 to $2,500. The move has led to a major outcry among policyholders.

"ICBC has tried raising rates, raising deductibles and moving toward more risk-management underwriting," said one expert familiar with the insurer. "The next thing they need to do is reduce costs … they have contracts with a number of companies, including Speedy, that they wish were less. A lawsuit such as the one they filed against Speedy changes the equation, opens up the market and will probably result in lower costs for auto glass replacement for ICBC," said the expert. "Nothing is ever as it seems."

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