VANCOUVER -- B.C. drivers will soon be paying less for insurance, at least for a little while.

The British Columbia Utilities Commission has approved ICBC's request for a 15 per cent decrease in basic insurance rates, the commission announced in a news release Thursday.

The approval is on an interim basis and will take effect on May 1. The interim rate will remain in effect until BCUC sets a permanent rate.

ICBC requested the rate decrease last month, with the provincial government claiming it would be the largest rate drop in more than four decades if approved. 

The decrease would last until 2023 at the earliest, according to the province.

ICBC is also reducing rates for optional third-party liability coverage starting on Feb. 1. The insurer doesn't require the commission's approval to adjust optional insurance rates.

British Columbians can weigh in on the BCUC review of the rate change by requesting intervener status, submitting a letter of comment or registering as an interested party.

More information on how to participate in the process can be found on the BCUC website.  

The commission has also approved changes to ICBC's tariff pages, which will allow the company to provide rebates to basic insurance policyholders once it completes its transition to a new insurance model that the province is calling "Enhanced Care."

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has promised that drivers with basic and optional coverage should expect an average annual savings of 20 per cent, or about $400, when the province switches to the new system.

In December, the ministry said when Enhanced Care takes effect, customers will receive a "one-time, pro-rated" refund calculated using the difference between the new rates and previous rates for policies that extend past May 1.

The BCUC is an independent body. It could decide that ICBC's plan to reduce rates is something the struggling company simply can't afford, or it could decide to approve a smaller rate reduction.

That said, ICBC's president and CEO Nicolas Jimenez said last month that the corporation believes it has the math right and can afford the 15 per cent rate reduction.