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Ontario changing auto insurance system; aiming to tackle fraud, lower rates

Last Updated Dec 5, 2017 at 6:22 pm EDT

Ontario is making changes to the auto insurance industry to try to combat fraud and reduce rates for drivers.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the cost of auto insurance fraud is estimated to be as high as $1.6 billion a year and it’s time to stop it.

He says the government will develop standard treatment plans for common collision injuries such as sprains and whiplash, create independent and neutral examination centres to provide medical assessments for more serious injuries, and establish a Serious Fraud Office to tackle fraud in the system.

A government-commissioned report earlier this year found that Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

“A Serious Fraud Office is being established with prosecution, with the enablement of enforcement so that we can act on these things and go after criminality,” Sousa told CityNews. “These are illegal activities and it’s being done by many.”

Gordon Rasbach of Aviva Insurance says there’s plenty of blame to go around, with lawyers, health care providers, tow truck drivers and repair shops all trying to profit off insurance claims. But Rasbach admits some of the blame also falls on insurance providers.

“There’s been abuse for a long time. The system’s broken,” said Rasbach.

“Part of the government’s actions should be to make the insurance companies — the way they do in other countries — do something about the fraud.”

Ontario’s announcement today comes as the Liberal government is still trying to fulfill a promise to reduce rates by 15 per cent on average from 2013 levels. Rates have now decreased on average by about eight per cent since then.

The government missed its self-imposed deadline of August 2015 to hit that target and Premier Kathleen Wynne has admitted that was a “stretch goal.”