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Commencement of delayed sections of Consumer Insurance Contracts Act welcome - Pearse Doherty TD

1 September, 2021 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the commencement of crucial and significant sections of the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act, after the Minister for Finance had delayed them last year.

These sections are part of the wide-ranging reform legislation introduced by Teachta Doherty in 2017, signed into law by President Higgins in December 2019 after passing all stages of the Dáil by an overwhelming majority.

Speaking this morning, Teachta Doherty said:

“The delay in the commencement of these hugely significant sections by the Minister for Finance last year was a huge blow to consumers and small businesses and was further evidence of a government that has been captured by the interests of the insurance industry.

“I introduced the Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to the Dáil in January 2017, more than four years ago. 

“It passed all stages of the Dáil at the end of 2019 with overwhelming support and was signed into law by President Higgins in December.

“This legislation shifted the balance of power away from insurers in favour of consumers.

"It was described as a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform and has been supported by ISME and small businesses across the State.

“Indeed, an online petition for this legislation to be given immediate effect was signed by more than 9,500 people.

“The insurance industry had three years to prepare for this legislation, but the Minister still bowed to their demands by blocking sections of this legislation until now.

“The sections which will be commenced today are crucial and hugely significant and will make it harder for insurance companies to wriggle out of paying valid claims on spurious grounds. 

“For example, under one of the sections commenced today, insurance companies will not be permitted to simply refuse to pay a valid claim in its entirety due to an innocent and genuine mistake made by the consumer in providing details when they were taking out the policy. 

“Now, under this new section, the burden will shift to the insurers to make sure that they ask the right questions, and any genuine mistake or omission on the part of the consumer must be dealt with in a proportionate manner and cannot be used as a basis to disallow the entire claim. 

“Consumers are no longer required to volunteer information at renewal, and do not have to provide any information at renewal unless specifically asked to by an insurer. Insurers cannot simply ask general questions.

“This will have a practical impact in strengthening the rights of the consumer when they are dealing with insurance companies and it levels the playing field significantly.

“Another section which will also have a positive impact for consumers, and which will undoubtedly increase transparency in relation to insurance pricing, will require insurance companies at the time of renewal to provide a schedule of all premiums and claims paid for the preceding five years.

“Having to be upfront and transparent in providing this information will ensure that the consumer is empowered with information to make an informed decision. This will have the effect of driving down the cost of premiums.

“This is the type of reform that will make a difference to the cost of insurance.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the commencement of these delayed sections today.

“Consumers are tired of waiting for reform and there must be no more delay tactics by this government.”

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