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Insurance costs review group to meet once, take Summer holidays – Doherty

15 July, 2016 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said it has been revealed to him in a parliamentary reply that the government review on the cost of insurance set up by the Minister for Finance will only meet for the first time next week and then not again until September. Deputy Doherty said this news summed up the failure of government to grasp the importance and urgency of the insurance cost crisis.

The Donegal Deputy said:

“I am extremely frustrated to hear from the Minister that this working group looking at the core issue of the reasons for the dramatic increases will only have its first meeting next week before taking a break until September.  This issue has been the focus of political and more importantly public anger for many months now and was the subject of a Dáil motion including a Sinn Féin amendment that won all party support last month. It is shocking that next week will be the first meeting of this review.  For drivers seeking insurance over the summer the message is ‘you’re on your own’.

“I am concerned too that there is still no time frame for the work on the reasons for the insurance increases to be completed in. It is clear that there is no understanding from government about the urgency of this issue and the anger it is causing.

“I do welcome confirmation that, following the passing of the Dáil motion on this issue and my amendment to it, the scope of the review has been broadened. I presume this means the role of the Central Bank will now be reviewed as my accepted amendment explicitly called for.

“I look forward to examining the other work on related issues that has been carried out including on flood insurance and the compensation framework including the fallout of the Setanta case. However, the primary focus must be on getting to the root causes of the increases faced day in, day out by drivers and putting a plan in place to stop the rip off.  It is time to stop skirting around the issue and actually deal with it.” 

Note: The PQs in response are below

QUESTION NOS:  63,64,65,66

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan)
by Deputy Pearse Doherty, Róisín Shortall
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 14/07/2016  

* To ask the Minister for Finance the membership of his Department's Task Force reviewing the insurance environment; the number of times it has met; and the attendance at each meeting

- Pearse Doherty T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 14 July, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Finance if he received a first report from his Department's Task Force reviewing the insurance environment focusing on the compensation issue; and when he will publish the report.

- Pearse Doherty T.D

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 14 July, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Finance the number and nature of his modules his Department's Task Force reviewing the insurance environment intends to cover; the timeframe in which each one is scheduled to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Pearse Doherty T.D

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 14 July, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Finance further to his speech to Dáil Éireann on 20 April 2016, the progress of the review of policy in the insurance sector that is ongoing in his Department; if there is any existing regulation that can protect consumers from unjustifiable car insurance premium increases; his plans to introduce a regulatory framework beyond the Financial Services Ombudsman in order to protect consumers in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Róisín Shortall T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 14 July, 2016.

REPLY.

As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation.  Neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products.  The EU framework for insurance expressly prohibits Member States from adopting rules which require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products. The provision of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is a commercial matter for insurance companies and is based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept and adequate provisioning to meet those risks. 

The Central Bank of Ireland has a statutory responsibility to ensure firms assess risks appropriately and offer insurance at a price that adequately takes into account the conditions prevailing in the market such as increasing claims costs. This ensures firms have the ability to pay all policyholders' claims without recourse to public or consumer funds.  The Central Bank does not have a statutory role in relation to setting premium prices.   

The Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code was introduced in 2006 and revised in 2012.  This Code applies to the regulated activities of regulated entities operating in the State.  It requires firms to act honestly fairly and professionally in the best interest of consumers, act with due care and diligence, and it prohibits firms from misleading customers.  

As previously advised, a task force has been established within my Department to undertake a Review of various aspects of Policy in the Insurance Sector.  To date, the task force has been working on three specific insurance policy reviews, as follows: 

I. A review of the framework for motor insurance compensation. This is a Joint Working Group involving the Department of Finance working closely with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
II. A review of flood insurance options has been carried out by the Department of Finance and is now feeding into the final report of the Inter-Departmental Flood Policy Group, chaired by Seán Canney TD.
III. A review of the cost of insurance. To date the Department of Finance has engaged in bilateral consultations with the main stakeholders. This initial work will now be built upon through a Working Group chaired by the Minister of State, Eoghan Murphy TD.

Progress on these reviews is outlined below:

Review of the framework for motor insurance compensation

A Joint Working Group between my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has carried out a review of the framework for motor insurance compensation in Ireland, in the event of a failure of an insurance company.  The objective of the review is to identify the features of a motor insurance compensation framework that is comprehensive, effective, affordable and consumer-focused. 

The Joint Working Group met on nine occasions in the period January to June 2016.  In addition to these meetings, the Joint Working Group also met and engaged with relevant stakeholders involved in the governance and administration of the motor insurance compensation system, including the Central Bank of Ireland, the Accountant of the Courts of Justice, the State Claims Agency and representatives of the insurance industry in Ireland.  The review also considered models in place in other jurisdictions.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I are currently considering the Joint Working Group's report with a view to publication in the coming weeks.  The report includes recommendations aimed at providing certainty regarding the compensation framework in Ireland.  

Review of flood insurance

The Department of Finance has carried out a review of options for flood insurance with particular focus on the strategies that other jurisdictions have implemented to increase the availability of flood insurance cover.  This work examined a number of policy options and the completed report has been sent to the Office of Public Works to feed into the final report of the Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by Seán Canney TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief.

Review of the cost of insurance

An important element of the review of policy in the insurance sector is an assessment of the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance.  My officials have met bilaterally over recent months with the Central Bank, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, with representatives of the insurance industry in Ireland and with  other interested Government Departments and Offices.   

Following the Dáil Private Members' Motion on this matter on 8thand 9th June, the scope of the review has been broadened to include other matters raised in that debate.   Progress will be overseen by a Working Group with representatives from all relevant Departments and Agencies and chaired by Minister of State Eoghan Murphy. The Working Group will examine issues that can be addressed on a more immediate basis and also those that require more long-term policy solutions.  The first meeting of the Working Group will take place on 20thJuly with further meetings scheduled for early September and in the coming months.

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