New role comes in the context of ICBC’s introduction of enhanced care coverage
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s new fairness officer, which seeks to ensure that the corporation’s decisions, actions and practices are transparent and fair, has been approved, announced the province on June 4.
B.C. intends for the fairness officer to be in place by the end of 2021, said a news release. The related amendments to the Insurance Corporation Act received royal assent on Mar. 25 and the applicable regulations, which impose additional parameters to the fairness officer’s role, received approval on June 2.
The establishment of the fairness officer aims to improve public trust in the ICBC’s dedication to caring for people injured in a crash and to offer affordable auto insurance coverage. The fairness officer is authorized to review and to make recommendations to resolve customer complaints regarding the policy and process that the ICBC used in making a decision and to make more general recommendations for fairer decision-making.
The fairness officer needs to report annually on complaints received, pursuant to the Fairness Officer Regulation, and on its response to any recommendations made by the officer, which will be publicly accessible.
The creation of the fairness officer comes in the context of the ICBC’s introduction on May 1 of its new enhanced care coverage plan, which aims to extend to British Columbians who have been injured in a crash access better care and recovery benefits, regardless of who was responsible for the incident.
The provincial government has estimated that it will save, under the new enhanced care coverage program, around $1.5 billion in the first year by removing lawyers and legal proceedings in the majority of cases and by capping payments for minor injuries attributable to a crash, said CTV News.
An article in Times Colonist listed certain points raised by opposition critics, including that the new fairness officer will not cover the issues of actual offers, payouts or findings of responsibility and will serve within the ICBC’s hierarchy and under its terms and conditions, even though the officer is chosen by cabinet. The article also noted that the ICBC already has the role of the fairness commissioner, who faces similar limitations and whose annual reports have not received much attention until recently.
“It’s a toothless, powerless entity that is controlled by ICBC every step of the way,” said Michael Lee, Liberal member of the legislative assembly, in the article.