News & Events

Minister Humphreys requests CCPC to undertake a study of the public liability insurance market

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (15th August 2019) announced that she has requested the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to undertake a study into the public liability insurance market. She made the request using her powers under section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014.

In her request, Minister Humphreys asked that the study should examine “how that market operates, how competition works in that market and whether any practice or method of competition affects the pricing levels of public liability insurance within that market”.

The Minister added: “The purpose of conducting this study is to bring greater transparency to the market by shining a light on the practices of insurance firms and intermediaries including brokers.”

Commenting on the issue of public liability insurance, the Minister stated: “The issue of insurance for businesses, and its impact on their ability to operate, is a growing concern. In particular, the issue of increases in public liability premia for businesses is being raised with me as Minister as posing a potential systemic threat to the very existence of many businesses.”

She also noted that concerns have been expressed directly to her on the roles of insurance firms and intermediaries (including brokers) in what, at times, appear to be very sharply increasing levels of public liability insurance premia.

She concluded: “The study forms part of the Government-wide response to tackling the cost of insurance. There is no silver-bullet solution to this issue but we are committed to ensuring that we are using every lever available to us to ease the pressure on businesses and consumers.”

The Minster has requested the CCPC, which is independent in the exercise of its statutory functions, to complete the study as a matter of priority.

ENDS

Note for Editors:

1. Background to the Study

Under section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation has the power to request the CCPC to

“carry out a study or analysis of –

(a)  any issue relating to consumer protection and welfare,

(b)  any practice or method of competition affecting the supply and distribution of goods or the provision of services, or

(c)  any other matter relating to competition,

and to submit a report to the Minister in relation to the study or analysis, and the Commission shall comply with such a request within such period and in such form and manner as the Minister may specify in the request.”

2. Powers of the CCPC

When performing its functions under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, the CCPC can gather information in a number of different ways. For example, it may:

  • invite individuals to attend for interview by CCPC staff;
  • request individuals to provide documents or records to the CCPC;
  • issue requests for information to individuals and undertakings;
  • conduct market surveys, and collect and compile market information;
  • issue questionnaires to relevant parties, and
  • commission expert analysis.

The CCPC’s approach is to gather information, as above, on a co-operative, voluntary basis but it reserves the right to consider the use of its full suite of statutory powers should co-operation not be forthcoming.

3. Government-wide Action on Insurance

The Government recognises that the cost of insurance is a major issue for consumers, businesses and community groups and has introduced a number of measures to tackle the costs imposed by insurance companies on clients.

In 2016 the Minister for Finance established a special Working Group to examine the issue. The Cost of Insurance Working Group has undertaken a review of the factors which are influencing the increased cost of insurance.

There have been positive pricing trends in relation to private motor insurance premiums: the price of motor insurance is now 23.8% lower than the July 2016 peak.

Three pieces of legislation on insurance reform have been enacted in the last year – namely, the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018, the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018, and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019. 

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect on 3 April 2019. This is an important piece of legislation as the Personal Injuries Assessment Board facilitates the objective assessment of damages at a much lower delivery cost and in a far shorter timeframe than through litigation. The primary objective of the Act is to strengthen PIAB in terms of operational issues to ensure greater compliance with the PIAB process. This measure forms part of the Government’s response to facilitate cost savings in the claims environment. PIAB process claims within, on average, 7.3 months compared to several years for litigation.

Additionally, the passage of the landmark Judicial Council Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas in July 2019 provides for the establishment of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee whose function will be to develop the relevant personal injury guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury. Judicial Guidelines should lead to greatly increased levels of consistency in awards, enable early resolution of claims and reduce costs.

The Government has published Guidelines for the Reporting of Allegations of Fraudulent Insurance Claims to An Garda Síochána. These Guidelines make it clear what insurance companies should do in the event that they suspect fraud in a personal injuries claim. The Guidelines were also circulated to the Chief Justice and the judiciary.

A new insurance claim fraud category on the Garda PULSE system went live on 2 November 2018.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and Insurance Ireland’s Anti-Fraud Forum meet on a regular basis to discuss and act upon current and ongoing issues which arise in the area of insurance fraud.

The Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018 was commenced on 28 January 2019. The availability of information collected under this legislation will allow policymakers to have a better understanding of those factors that influence the cost of insurance. 

The Government is also working with independent Senators to make perjury a statutory offense and easier to prosecute. When the Bill becomes law, perjurers including those found to have made a fraudulent claim in court could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

For further information please contact Press Office, D/Business, Enterprise and Innovation, press.office@dbei.gov.ie or (01) 631 2200

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