- Who is responsible for the operations of insurance companies and insurance agents in the province?
Licensing and discipline of insurance agents, brokers and adjusters is the responsibility of the Alberta Insurance Council. The council handles complaints from the public about insurance providers. The Alberta Ministry of Finance oversees the insurance industry in general under the Alberta Insurance Act.
- Can an insurance provider refuse to provide insurance on the basis of age?
Yes. Age is not a protected ground of discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
- Can auto insurance providers charge different premiums for men and women?
Yes. Although charging different insurance premiums based on gender is discriminatory under the AHR Act, it is reasonable and justifiable under section 11. In a 1993 case, Co-operators General Insurance Co. v. Alberta (Human Rights Comm.) (1993), 21 C.H.R.R. D/343 (Alta. C.A.), the Alberta Court of Appeal found that there was no reasonable alternative for the insurance industry, and that if premiums were equalized, the higher rates would be unfair to young female drivers because young male drivers have more accidents. The Supreme Court of Canada also found this in Zurich Insurance Co. v. Ontario (Human Rights Commission) (1992) 2 S.C.R. 321.
- Is disability or other insurance provided through employment covered under the AHR Act?
If insurance, like short- or long-term disability insurance, is part of an employment benefits package, it will be protected from discrimination under section 7 of the AHR Act, which covers employment and any term or condition of employment.
- Can an insurance company deny life insurance coverage based on an individual's state of health or medical history?
An insurance company's decision to deny coverage to someone or charge them a higher premium because of a disability has to be reasonable and justifiable. This means that it has to be based on sound and accepted insurance industry practice, and the company needs to be able to support its decision with statistical evidence. Without evidence, an insurance company cannot deny coverage or charge higher premiums based on any of the protected grounds in the AHR Act.
- What are the responsibilities of an insurance agent in providing insurance without discrimination?
Insurance agents are only dealers for specific insurance companies. Although it is the insurance companies who set premiums and decide who will or will not be covered, agents are responsible for providing their services without discrimination. If an agent is unable to provide a policy for a customer with a disability, for example, their duty to accommodate that customer may mean they have to look to other companies to provide a policy.
- Does an insurance company that provides service in Alberta but is based outside the province have to obey Alberta law in providing non-discriminatory services?
Yes. Insurance companies that are based elsewhere must still follow Alberta laws, including the AHR Act, if the insurance covers property or activity in Alberta.
- Do an insurance provider's facilities have to be wheelchair-accessible?
Like other public service providers, insurance agents, brokers and companies have a duty to accommodate customers with disabilities, to the point of undue hardship. This may mean that a large insurance office will be required to make its facilities accessible, while a one-person office run from a home may not.
- Are insurance providers required to provide assistive services to people with visual or auditory disabilities?
Insurance agents, brokers and companies must accommodate customers with disabilities, to the point of undue hardship. This means that they must look for ways to make assistive services available, if such assistance is necessary in serving customers with disabilities. For more information about the duty to accommodate, see the Alberta Human Rights Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
Revised: February 4, 2010
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