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'Some kind of mistake or joke,' says Coquitlam woman infuriated over $1 ICBC rebate cheque

Sending out cheques for $1 is a waste of money, woman says, after receiving a smaller cheque than she expected for insuring two cars last year; the province had said when the ICBC rebate was announced that cheques would be between $25 and $400
ICBC Cheque
A Coquitlam woman who was mailed a $1 ICBC rebate cheque says the corporation shouldn't have bothered.

A car insurance rebate mailed to a Coquitlam woman this week turned out to be a huge disappointment when the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia sent her a cheque for only $1.

“I was in disbelief and I thought: ‘this has got to be some kind of mistake or joke,’” said Shari O’Neill, whose post of a photo of the cheque went viral on social media.

The cheque is one of the first batch being mailed out by ICBC after a cyber attack hit the third-party cheque vendor, stalling the initiative. 

O’Neill had two cars insured during the qualifying period of April 1 to Sept. 30, a 1994 Toyota Tacoma and a 2017 GMC Yukon, and paid about $200 a month each for the two vehicles, with a 43% discount.

She expected to receive at least $200 back for the two cars after the B.C. government said cheques would range from $25 to $400 when the rebate plan was announced in February.

At the time, Premier John Horgan said the one-time rebate cheques are "the largest single give-back to policy holders in Canada through COVID-19."

O’Neill said sending the cheque for $1 was a waste of time and money and it would have made more sense if the government just credited the amount on people’s insurance for the following year instead of mailing out cheques to people in amounts so small as to be useless.

Now she thinks the cheque is too small to cash because her bank charges a deposit fee, so the amount would be even less, suggesting cheques should have been only sent out if they were worth $25 or more.

“At least you could buy groceries or gas with it,” she said.

ICBC responded to her concerns in a Tweet noting that everyone would get a cheque even if it was only $1, a reversal of earlier policy to only rebate people for $5 or more.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who is the minister responsible for ICBC and a Port Coquitlam MLA, said in February the rebates were the result of balancing lower claims costs during the pandemic with other considerations, such as lower premium revenues.

"The vast majority of people who insured their vehicles in the early months of the pandemic will see on average a rebate of $190," he said at the time.

O’Neill now worries drivers with less experience, more accidents and higher premiums are getting the bigger rebates while those with experience and a clean, no-accident driving rebate, are getting $1 cheques. She’s heard that some people are getting rebates of less than $1.

“Too bad for me, I’m a responsible driver,” she told the Tri-City News.

On its website, ICBC stated that it has begun mailing COVID-19 rebate cheques in small batches directly to eligible customers and continues to work on options to send out more cheques in the coming weeks.

The slow roll out of ICBC rebate cheques is because of a cyberattack on the Ontario vendor, which is still being investigated.

ICBC says it is confident that no customer information was obtained by unauthorized parties. 

“The event did not impact ICBC's systems, which are secure,” wrote the insurance provider in a press release this week.

ICBC estimates that 0.2% of cheques will have a value of $1.

"The number of small dollar refunds is very low and it is more efficient for ICBC to issue a cheque as part of a proactive refund process than to have customers call us to request a low-dollar cheque, which would require ICBC to manually issue a one-off cheque at a later date," said a spokesperson from ICBC.