Canada: Insurers Get Slap On The Wrist For Alleged Credit Snooping

Last Updated: May 8 2017
Article by Sarah R. Levine

A recent decision of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (the "Commissioner"),  finding that analyzing a customer's credit rating does little to help counter insurance fraud, will seem shocking to many in the insurance industry. In making this decision, the Commissioner has denounced something that is common industry practice in assessing the legitimacy of claims.1

Details of the Decision

This decision arises out of an Ontario motor vehicle accident claim. The Commissioner ruled that The Personal Insurance Company ("The Personal") violated a senior citizen's privacy rights when it accessed his credit rating in the course of handling his motor vehicle accident claim for Section B benefits. The Personal asserted that this practice was employed to assist in detecting and preventing fraud.  However, in response to the decision that The Personal failed to establish how the collection and use of credit scores is necessary and effective in preventing and detecting fraud as alleged, The Personal has promised to cease using credit scores to assess motor vehicle claims by April 22, 2017.

While advocacy groups, such as the Victims for Accident Insurance Reform, were quick to accuse insurance companies of using claimants' credit scores to determine the extent to which they could lowball the settlement of their claims, The Personal denied that insurers use credit data for any purpose other than to fight fraud.

The Commissioner also took issue with the manner in which The Personal obtained consent from the claimant to access his credit score. In fact, the adjuster's allegedly "aggressive" interview with the claimant, where he requested consent to access his credit score, was reportedly what prompted the gentleman to complain to the Commissioner. The Commissioner found that The Personal did not obtain proper "meaningful" consent from the claimant to gain access to his credit score, nor was the insurer as open as it should be about how it uses credit information in the claims assessment process.

Common Industry Practice

The use of claimants' credit information is common practice throughout the insurance industry. For example, it may be used in analyzing cases of vehicles being reported stolen and found "totaled", or burned out. In such cases, credit scores are a tool insurers use to review claims closely and ascertain whether or not there is motive for committing fraud. For instance, if the credit score reveals a claimant's significant debt load, an insurer might proceed with further inspection of the circumstances of the loss, such as having an engineer inspect the damaged vehicle or analyze the Event Data Recorder.

Ultimately, the credit history in these sorts of claims can be relevant to the insured's motivation in making the claim, and can be important to insurers as a means to uncover the truth about how the loss occurred. A poor credit score can be one of many red flags that alert an insurer to potential fraud, though it certainly is not determinative.

What Does This Decision Mean for Alberta's Insurers?

Based on this decision, insurers in Alberta should think twice before running a credit history as part of making a determination with respect to a claim. While the Commissioner did not publish written reasons (or in any event, has not yet done so), the decision was made with respect to quite a narrow issue, being the use of a claimant's credit score in a claim for specific benefits (namely, benefits under "Section B" of the standard policy). The take-home message of the case should not, therefore, be extrapolated to conclude that the use of a credit score in assessing any insurance claim will be found to be a breach of privacy.

Taking this into account, the practical effect of the Commissioner's decision likely will not bear heavily on Alberta insurers' practice to use credit scores as a tool for uncovering potentially fraudulent claims. At the end of the day, the decision does not extend to the use of credit scores in assessing all claims.

Having said this, insurers should take note of the Commissioner's comments with respect to properly obtaining a claimant's consent. In all cases, informed consent must be given by the claimant to access information such as their credit scores. This decision seems to indicate that there must be a more fulsome disclosure to the insured of how credit information is used in the claims process in order to qualify as meaningful consent.  This direction is in line with the Insurance Bureau of Canada's Code of Conduct for Insurers' Use of Credit Information, which requires insurers to obtain a customer's informed and express consent prior to collecting credit information.


1 McLennan Ross LLP reached out to the Commissioner to request the published decision for the purposes of analyzing it and its effects on the insurance industry. However, the Commissioner's Office explained that they do not have a published decision yet.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Sarah R. Levine
Events from this Firm
13 Sep 2017, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

Accommodation in the workplace is not a new concept. However, the needs of employees that employers are being asked to accommodate are continuing to evolve and change. In addition, the expansion of human rights legislation to add additional types of expression and personal characteristics which will require accommodation is on the horizon.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.