An “arbitrary” 14 per cent increase in ICBC’s discount on windshield replacements is pushing auto repair businesses to lay off staff or in some cases even close down, an industry association says.
Automotive Retailers Association president Ken McCormack said Wednesday he has taken the issue up directly with Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby, who have moved aggressively to reduce accident claim costs at ICBC. The association is also lobbying individual MLAs to change legislation.
In addition to raising basic insurance rates by 6.4 per cent, the B.C. government has moved to cap soft tissue injury payouts and targeted body shop costs that ICBC says have risen 30 per cent in the past two years alone.
The association says glass shops aren’t the problem, since they haven’t had a significant increase in their windshield replacement rate for 20 years. It estimates that ICBC business accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of glass shops’ business, and glass repairs account for only 8.5 per cent of ICBC’s vehicle repair costs.
ICBC issued a statement calling the suggestion of a 20-year freeze on rates “completely false. ICBC’s last labour rate increase for its top tier glass suppliers (Glass Express) occurred on Jan. 1, 2016.”
Another cost-saving change is the requirement to use the cheapest windshields available. McCormack says that often means ordering from a dealership, with a delay of days, rather than using aftermarket windshields that are in stock.
ICBC cites a steep increase in accident claims, along with soaring legal costs as people hire lawyers to pursue injury payouts. The rise in accidents has been significant in the past two years, after a period of little increase as vehicles and roads become safer with construction and new technology.
The Attorney General’s ministry issued a statement in response, calling the changes to glass pricing “long overdue” ways to reduce its costs. The changes also include increasing the allowances for wheel alignment and alloy wheel repair, and paying for windshield glass moulding only when it is actually replaced.
ICBC says payments for glass repair and replacements have increased by 140 per cent over the last decade, from $40 million in 2008 to $96 million in 2017, as both the number of claims and their average cost have increased.
McCormack said the moulding replacement policy was imposed on repair shops by ICBC to save administration costs.
“They are suggesting the industry is doing something wrong by charging for new mouldings whether or not they are installed,” McCormack said. “But this is something ICBC put in place a decade ago because it wouldn’t or couldn’t discuss rate increases.”