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NB auto insurance rates twice what was expected

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FREDERICTON (CP) _ New Brunswickers are paying an average of $1,800 dollars for auto insurance, according to a new survey that's being questioned by the province.

That's more than twice the $851 average for 2006 announced last November by the New Brunswick Insurance Board.

The survey, done for the New Brunswick Liberal Party by Corporate Research Associates, polled 255 people between Feb. 17 and March 2.

It's considered accurate plus or minus 6.2 per cent, 95 per cent of the time.

Denis Landry, the Opposition insurance critic, says the results show the government's reforms failed to produce significant rate reductions.

``I'm sure we're not well covered for what we're paying for insurance here in New Brunswick,'' Landry said Wednesday.

He said many people are still paying for accidents out of their own pocket rather than making a claim and facing the prospect of higher premiums.

The reforms imposed by the Conservative government included a basic no-fault policy, lower rates for first-time drivers, and a $2,500 cap on claims for minor bodily injuries.

Spiking costs for automobile coverage made New Brunswickers so angry it became a major issue in the 2003 provincial election campaign.

Premier Bernard Lord and his Tories barely managed to hold on to power.

Lord promised action to rein in rates.

However, some critics charged that the government's reforms were weighted too much in favour of the insurance industry, instead of the consumer.

Bruce Fitch, the province's justice minister said Wednesday that he doubted the survey results were correct.

``Out of the 400,000 policies that are in the province of New Brunswick, that certainly isn't representative of the average in New Brunswick,'' he said.

``The New Brunswick Insurance Board, which is independent, has stated that the average, standard policy in New Brunswick is $851, and that has more validity to me than that other number.''

Fitch said if insurance companies are now reporting profits, then there's room for further rate reductions in the future.

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NB auto insurance rates twice what was expected
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