There's a growing wave of anger among vehicle owners in Manitoba who are discovering that the rebate cheques from Manitoba Public Insurance are for amounts a lot less than they were expecting.
Some vehicle owners are learning that even if they paid premiums for 12 months, they're not getting rebates for that time period and they're having a hard time understanding why.
"I called (MPI) three times because I couldn't believe the answer I was getting -- I thought there was no way this can be right," Renee Perron said. "I was so confused and agitated. I'm so disgusted."
Perron had paid close to $1,100 in premiums for the 12 months in 2009/10 and she was expecting a rebate cheque of close to $500 but all she got was $76.
"I was just livid," Rachelle Paget said after she got a rebate cheque for $64 instead of the $360 she was expecting. "It doesn't seem fair."
MPI officials said its switchboards had lit up Thursday from angry and confused callers upset with the amount of their rebate cheques.
MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said the confusion was caused because vehicle owners were expecting a rebate based on the 12 months they paid premiums for 2009/10.
However, Smiley said the rebate is based on the amount of premiums paid during the 2009/10 insurance year, which runs from March 1, 2009 to Feb. 28, 2010.
The disappointment happened, he said, if someone cancelled their policy -- either because they bought a new vehicle, cancelling the old policy and then taking out a new policy, or simply cancelled the policy and put the vehicle in storage or junked it.
When the policy was cancelled, Smiley said the rebate would only be for the period of time that it had been in force.
However, he said that if a vehicle owner had transferred an existing policy when they bought another vehicle, then the rebate would be for the full 12 months.
Both Paget and Perron said they had cancelled policies after buying new vehicles but didn't think that should lessen the size of their rebates.
"I was still paying my premiums, just for a different car," Paget said. "It's disappointing when you're expecting to get a big rebate."
About 17 per cent of vehicle owners -- 100,000 individuals or companies -- are getting a rebate cheque for less than the 12 months.
Smiley admitted it was confusing, adding, however, that all previous rebates given to vehicle owners in the past were also calculated the same way.
"The big difference this time is that the amount is so much larger and people are noticing the difference," Smiley said.
A spokesman for Andrew Swan, minister responsible for MPI, said the government believes MPI is following the Public Utilities Board order, adding, however, that the government has instructed MPI to confirm the rebate applies to its insurance year.
How it's calculated
On March 31, the Public Utilities Board ordered MPI to issue vehicle owners a 45 per cent rebate on the premiums paid for 2009/10.
MPI said the rebate applies only to premiums paid for the 2009/10 insurance year -- March 1, 2009 to Feb. 28, 2010.
Anyone who renewed or transferred an existing policy between March 1, 2009 and Feb. 28, 2010, would receive a 45 per cent rebate for the entire amount, regardless of when the policy was issued.
MPI states that if during the March 1, 2009-Feb. 28, 2010 year a policy was taken out for the first time or if an existing policy was subsequently cancelled -- either because the vehicle was sold, put into storage, or junked -- then the rebate would only apply for the period it was taken out or until it was cancelled.
MPI says that of the 579,257 vehicle owners receiving rebate cheques this month, about 100,000 of them will receive a rebate for less than the 12-month period.
The smallest rebate cheque is for $2.