ICBC will officially start online vehicle insurance renewals and eliminate the use of yearly validation decal stickers on licence plates this spring, officials announced Monday morning.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and ICBC president/CEO Nicolas Jimenez jointly announced the move at a press conference, saying that drivers with policies expiring on or after May 1 will have the option of online renewal via computer, tablet or mobile device.
It means that — with the ability to renew 44 days before expiration — drivers with insurance expiring can renew online as soon as March 17.
In addition, the decal sticker program will officially be eliminated on May 1 as well, and drivers will no longer need to display those stickers on their cars after that date. The move creates efficiencies as well as eliminates the problem of theft when it comes to these decal stickers, Farnworth said.
To support the transition, B.C. is making a one-time, $1-million investment in enhancing the Automated Licence Plate Recognition program to help law enforcement identify uninsured drivers without relying on decal stickers.
Jiminez emphasized that, for people who are not comfortable with online renewal, traditional ways of renewal (in-person, via telephone) will continue to be in use jointly with online insurance registration.
The online registration program has been one of the most sought-after initiatives by the public when it comes to ICBC’s renewals. The service has been available with private insurers in the United States and elsewhere, but B.C. — with ICBC having a government-mandated monopoly in the province — has not implemented the program until now.
In addition, multiple Canadian provinces — including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec — have already eliminated their own decal stickers program.
Farnworth did reiterate that traditional brokers will continue to play a key part in the renewal program. Critics have said that the high cost of going through brokers and agents to purchase ICBC insurance can be alleviated by bypassing the middle-man completely through an online program, but Farnworth said the province has already done a lot to reduce costs to B.C. drivers.
“We have undergone the biggest transformation of ICBC that has resulted in people saving significant amounts in their insurance,” he said. “We have taken what was worse than a dumpster fire — a Crown corporation that some in this province wanted to get rid of... — and have put in place enhanced care, which means better service, care as long as people need it, and savings of $490 [per person] a year.”
Jiminez added that the ICBC online renewal program does not circumvent brokers’ role of looking after each policy.
“It’s also important to point out our customers won’t be left on their own if they decide to renew online,” he said. “Every online renewal is going to be reviewed by a broker — especially one chosen by the customers. So our broker community — which has been working with British Columbians for decades — will be there to assist people with their insurance needs, whether that’s in person, by phone or online.”
Among the services available with the launch of the online program are insurance renewals, address changes, discount applications, adding additional drivers listed on a policy and modifying vehicle-use categories. Officials added they will increase the program’s online offerings as it moves forward.