Car in­sur­ers face ma­jor probe over block­ing EU ri­vals

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Se­nan Molony and Ro­nan Smyth

THE Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has launched a ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged at­tempts by the Ir­ish mo­tor in­sur­ance in­dus­try to block out cheaper Euro­pean ri­vals.

It fol­lows a com­mis­sion raid last year on the Dublin of­fices of In­sur­ance Ire­land, the in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive group here.

Doc­u­ments from that raid form part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which in­volves al­le­ga­tions that In­sur­ance Ire­land prevented cheaper foreign com­pe­ti­tion from be­com­ing mem­bers of its or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The com­mis­sion is ex­am­in­ing the mem­ber­ship ap­pli­ca­tion process, in which spon­sor­ship from an ex­ist­ing In­sur­ance Ire­land mem­ber is re­quired.

Sev­eral EU com­pa­nies have com­plained that the process is de­signed to block cheaper foreign com­pe­ti­tion from join­ing – in con­tra­ven­tion of Ar­ti­cle 30 of the EC Treaty and other EU free trade mea­sures. Mem­ber­ship of In­sur­ance Ire­com­plaint Soar­ing costs: Dara Cal­leary land al­lows mem­bers ac­cess to a data­base on driv­ers’ penalty points, driver li­cences and claims his­tory. Mem­bers are also given ac­cess to In­suranceLink which hosts the in­for­ma­tion on fraud­u­lent claims by driv­ers. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion comes af­ter Gi­bral­tar­based Zenith In­sur­ance with­drew from the Ir­ish mar­ket in 2016 cit­ing ‘lack of en­gage­ment with us by Ir­ish in­dus­try bod­ies, which we be­lieve cre­ates a mar­ket disad­van­tage for us and our part­ners’.

It’s not yet known if it was Zenith that made the ini­tial to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

In­sur­ance Ire­land said in a state­ment yes­ter­day that it had never re­fused mem­ber­ship of the as­so­ci­a­tion.

‘In 2012, In­sur­ance Ire­land’s mem­ber­ship in­cluded 12 com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing mo­tor in­sur­ance. In 2017, this had in­creased to 18,’ it said.

‘In­sur­ance Ire­land has co­op­er­ated fully with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in its in­quiries and is con­fi­dent its prac­tices are fully com­pli­ant with com­pe­ti­tion law.’

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Do­herty said yes­ter­day that the al­leged be­hav­iour by In­sur­ance Ire­land would come as no sur­prise to driv­ers who had dealt with the in­dus­try. He called on In­sur­ance Ire­land to drop its ‘friv­o­lous op­po­si­tion’ to a new claims data­base, brand­ing their stance a ‘sick joke’.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on en­ter­prise, Dara Cal­leary, said ev­ery­one was aware of soar­ing in­sur­ance costs on busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als. ‘Many have seen in­sur­ance costs rise by be­tween 40% and 60% over the past sev­eral years,’ he said. ‘There is con­sid­er­able ev­i­dence in re­cent months of busi­ness clo­sures as a con­se­quence of ex­ces­sive in­sur­ance rises. For young driv­ers in par­tic­u­lar, there are many ex­am­ples of peo­ple be­ing un­able to af­ford the pre­mi­ums charged.

‘While the Gov­ern­ment says it is com­mit­ted and pub­lished buck­et­loads of re­ports, it has failed to stop in­sur­ance price hikes,’ he added.

Na­tional Com­pet­i­tive­ness Coun­cil fig­ures show that Ir­ish in­sur­ance price in­fla­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly above that of the eu­ro­zone, en­abled by a lack of com­pe­ti­tion in the Ir­ish mar­ket. The Al­liance for In­sur­ance Re­form said that the Cen­tral Bank is not su­per­vis­ing the in­sur­ers prop­erly.

‘The Cen­tral Bank, which is sup­posed to be su­per­vis­ing the in­sur­ers on be­half of con­sumers, is ac­tu­ally do­ing the op­po­site, hav­ing abol­ished the only data that of­fered some in­sight into the in­dus­try, the so-called “Blue Book” so that there is now no us­able data avail­able on the in­dus­try,’ it said.

Com­ment – Page 16 se­nan.molony@dai­ly­mail.ie

‘Con­tra­venes free trade mea­sures’

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