How Complicated Can It Be?

Authority Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

Frank didn’t cancel his car insurance before he went to prison to serve a sixteen month prison sentence. Several months later, he received a letter from ICBC advising that he needed to pay $430 or cancel his insurance: Frank asked his sister Marge to cancel the insurance.

Marge gathered Frank’s insurance papers and licence plates and took them to an insurance broker. Unsure how to proceed, the broker called ICBC who relayed that Marge needed power of attorney for her brother before they could take the plates.

Marge left the insurance office and visited Frank’s lawyer within the next few days. The lawyer told Marge she just needed to provide evidence that Frank asked her to cancel the insurance – not a power of attorney. In case it would help, the lawyer also sent a letter to ICBC.

Marge got written permission from Frank and returned to the insurance broker a few weeks later, letter and plates in hand. Again, the broker got on the phone with ICBC. Now a “committee bond” was requested. Marge left and did not return.

Frank tried to get a new policy when his sentence ended. But first, he had to pay his debt to ICBC. Frank asked ICBC to backdate the cancellation of his insurance to the date his sister first tried to return his plates and cancel his insurance. ICBC refused.

ICBC acknowledged a mistake was made early on – but they believed they had corrected it. ICBC said they had called Frank’s insurance broker back to immediately correct the mistake, yet Marge failed to return the plates either then or during her second visit a few weeks later. ICBC conditionally offered to cancel the interest on Frank’s debt.

Frank paid the $430, but he strongly disputed ICBC’s account of what occurred with his sister. When a subsequent complaint to the ICBC Fairness Commissioner was unsuccessful, Frank’s advocate came to
us on Frank’s behalf.

We reviewed ICBC’s records and it became apparent why ICBC thought they had corrected their error with Marge.

During Marge’s first visit to the broker, ICBC called the broker after Marge left and believed Marge was still present. On Marge’s second visit to the broker, ICBC misunderstood the broker’s questions and came to the conclusion that Frank was being deemed incapable and his sister was being legally appointed to take over all his personal and financial affairs. In reality, Marge just wanted to help her brother cancel his car insurance because he was not able to get to an insurance office due to the fact that he was in prison.

We reviewed emails between ICBC staff members discussing how Frank’s cancellation could have been handled better. When someone visits a broker to cancel another client’s insurance, the broker may offer to accept the plates without condition. Later, they can backdate the cancellation when the required documents are properly submitted from the client. Given the confusion over Frank’s circumstance, ICBC staff regretted not suggesting this practical solution.

As a result of our investigation, ICBC refunded Frank the full $430 and apologized in writing to him and his sister for their inconvenience and hardship. ICBC also agreed to amend its customer service procedures manual to help people in Frank’s situation. Now, incarcerated clients can fax an authorization to cancel their policy. Frank was pleased to get his money refunded and to be able to purchase insurance on a monthly payment plan again.

Category Corrections, Driving and Transportation
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2015
Location The Interior