It’s an encounter with all the interpersonal appeal of a proctologist appointment:
Good evening, sir, do you know why I pulled you over tonight?
Uh, no officer.
Your left taillight’s out.
Shoot, sorry, it’s my dad’s car. I had no idea.
How long you been driving?
About ten minutes.
No, I mean in total.
Oh, sorry—I’m a bit nervous. Almost two years.
Licence, registration, and proof of insurance, please.
In a recent 2017 budget announcement, Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government introduced plans to replace the pink slip—that ubiquitous corroborator of automobile insurance—with an electronic alternative and a premium discount for its use. Days appear to be numbered for the procrastination-testing ritual of updating the colourful card—the panicked search for which has emptied many a glove box before its eventual discovery behind the sun visor where it was diligently paper-clipped—two years earlier.
The provincial government’s initiative to recognize handheld devices as an increasingly popular mode of information storage and exchange, is being touted by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO)—the professional organization representing 1,200 brokerages in the province—as a positive step toward cost-efficiency and appropriate reflection of an increasingly tech-inclined consumer.
Although the industry has made great strides in technological progress, the advent of electronic proof of insurance should be the catalyst for all participants in the market to come together and deliver efficiencies and savings to consumers through the broker, said IBAO CEO, Colin Simpson, in an April 28th press release.
IBAO President, Traci Boland, encouraged a collective approach by key stakeholders in moving the initiative forward.
This is a real opportunity for the insurance industry to come together to demonstrate and deliver real consumer value in a time of change. We look forward to working with all insurers and technology vendors to make this happen.
There are usually more questions than answers before government vision finds its way to functional reality. To ensure the credibility test draws answers of authority from questions of relevance, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has assembled a working group of stakeholders for the review.
One of FSCO’s interests is to ensure rollout requirements align with the capabilities of the industry. The initial review by a cross-section of representatives from IBAO, insurance companies, and the applicable government agencies, addresses matters of process, premium, and any legal implications related to the storage and presentation of insurance evidence, via personal electronic devices.
Pending the conclusions of the working group, the parameters and timing of the program will be outlined and guidelines delivered to the industry in a bulletin from FSCO.
The industry hopes to launch before the end of the year, says IBAO’s, Simpson.
One of the practical challenges of the program may be gaining consensus in an industry complicated by multiple distribution systems and varying technological capability. To Ontario brokers—the principal distribution network and customer touchpoint for general insurance in the province—the preference is a common database of information accessible to all brokers and insurers—not a patchwork of proprietary portals.
Avoiding duplication and the confusion of multiple, proprietary initiatives, is a position strongly promoted by Adam Mitchell, President of Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers Limited. As one of the first brokers in Ontario to incorporate Chatbot technology—a rules-powered application of artificial intelligence to handle routine issues in a chat interface directly with the customer—his operation provides a solid example of leveraging technology to enhance customer experience.
It is through the same lens of process efficiency and commitment to customers that Mitchell views the electronic proof of insurance matter.
We’re not interested in supporting company-exclusive initiatives, he says.
We suggest taking the collaboration road. It has to work for everyone and all users need to have a great experience.
The day will likely come when Police Services has direct access to insurance records for vehicles—as they currently have through MTO for drivers’ licence status and conviction records. There may also be a time when the consumer—similar to how things now exist in the banking industry—make inquiries and basic changes to their insurance directly.
For the purpose of this stage, there are many practical matters for the FSCO working group to consider: Will the driver in the example above need to have Dad text a copy of the electronic pink slip before taking the car? Will mid-term road coverage changes and policy cancellations be captured in the process? What are the privacy implications if a driver hands over her cell phone—and associated personal information—to the police officer? Will the proof be required to be shown only, without relinquishing the mobile device? If it is handed over, who is responsible if the device slips from the officer’s hand and shatters on the pavement below?
Electronic proof of insurance is one small piece of the broader government initiative to reduce the cost of automobile insurance and harness technology to improve product access and enhance convenience for Ontarians.
There is still work to be done before we get to electronic proof of insurance, but in the meantime, those interested in covering their backsides—in the event of a blown taillight—may want to check the expiry on that pink card in the glove box.