TORONTO — Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Thursday he wants to see insurance companies giving drivers breaks on their premiums that reflect the “devastating impact” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He met last week with the CEOs of the major insurance companies and said people are driving less and therefore having fewer collisions.

“The point I made to all of them is we’re in unprecedented times and there’s unprecedented pressure on Ontario families, and of course that includes drivers, and that their responses needed to reflect those times and that we would do what we need to do from a regulatory point of view to get out of the way,”

Some companies have already announced discounts for customers, including Allstate Insurance Co. of Canada, which is giving all of its drivers a “stay at home payment” of about 25 per cent of their monthly auto premium.

CAA Insurance announced Thursday that a 10-per-cent reduction for a year for both new and existing customers, once they renew, will be automatically applied.

Many other companies are offering to adjust premiums for customers, but Phillips said he would like to see them being proactive.

“I’m waiting for some details — I’ve learned to read the small print when it comes to auto insurance, but I think the initial response has to be one that reflects the challenges people are facing,” Phillips said.

“I reminded the CEOs, as I do with all businesspeople, that the people who they’re dealing with now have been their customers for the last five years and they’ll probably be their customers for the next five years, so it’s very important and we’re all going to remember how people were treated.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said its member companies are offering reductions for the next 90 days that could result in $600 million in savings to consumers, and said drivers should contact their insurance representatives.

The NDP called on the Ontario government to mandate a three-month, 50-per-cent discount on auto insurance.

“As Ontarians listen to public health experts and stay home as much as possible, there’s little driving and few accidents happening in the province,” said auto insurance critic Tom Rakocevic.

“Drivers should get the benefit of that — not insurance companies.”

Aviva Canada said customers who have stopped driving entirely can reduce their premiums by up to 75 per cent, and people who are driving less may be eligible to save up to 15 per cent.

Most companies are also offering to defer payments for customers in financial difficulty and waive non-sufficient fund fees.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 9, 2020.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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