The Bill 6, the Insurance Amendment Act, 2009 has been introduced

Colin Hansen, finance minister of British Columbia, has announced that the legislation to amend and update the Insurance Act will improve protection for consumers in the insurance market. The Bill 6, the Insurance Amendment Act, 2009 has been introduced.

As per the amendments, consumers will have a 30-day grace period in which to pay overdue premiums for life and health insurance contracts and ensure their policies remain in force. Consumers will be provided with a 10-day cooling-off period in which they can rescind a life or health insurance contract.

The insurance companies will be required to put in place internal complaint resolution procedures and offer consumers access to ombudsman-type services, if disputes cannot be resolved internally. The limitation period in which consumers can make legal claims against insurance companies will be increased to two years from one.

The language of the Insurance Act has also been strengthened to ensure that fire coverage includes fires resulting from any cause, except those that are specifically excluded by regulation. In addition to improved protection, this change will provide consumers with more consistency across insurers.

Further amendments respond to insurance industry needs by reducing red tape and improving efficiency by removing unnecessary requirements and clarifying the legislation.

In drafting and finalising the amendments, British Columbia and Alberta worked together to develop a harmonised approach that will allow businesses to operate more effectively in both jurisdictions.

The British Columbia Insurance Act sets out the requirements for insurance contracts, including life, health and property insurance in British Columbia, but does not regulate automobile insurance contracts, which are covered by a separate statute.

The proposed changes also include the repeal of the Insurance (Marine) Act. Marine insurance contracts are exclusively a matter of federal jurisdiction, and are subject to the federal Marine Insurance Act.