Campaigners call for further reform of insurance market

Campaign groups have described the introduction of new rules to improve transparency on motor insurance pricing as a welcome step.

Campaign groups have described the introduction of new rules to improve transparency on motor insurance pricing as a welcome step.

But they say further moves and greater transparency are needed to reassure consumers and bring down premiums.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform said the reforms, while welcome, have taken too long to deliver.

Director Peter Boland said that it has taken two-and-a-half years to announce what he described as “a tiny amount of reform”.

He said: “If that is an example of what it will take to get real transparency in insurance, we are in serious trouble.”

The alliance said the industry is a “notoriously secretive” one and has been part of the issue with achieving real reform on behalf of consumers.

It also said the reforms only apply, in the main, to private motor insurance and do not cover liability insurance “which is the type of insurance that’s closing small business and winding down charities at the moment”.

Insurance Ireland, which represents the vast majority of insurance companies in Ireland, said it has been working with the Government and the Central Bank to put in place the new regulations.

It said: “These regulations are important in assisting insurance customers in making informed decisions on the cover that is right for their needs.”

The group also focused on some of the other promised reforms and called for greater speed in implementing them, in particular an assessment and “recalibration” of claims costs.

Insurance Ireland said: “It is over a year since the Personal Injuries Commission established that Irish soft tissue awards were over 4.4 times those paid in the UK.

“We still do not know when this overdue recalibration of our personal injury awards will happen.

“This lack of claims cost reform will be a disappointment to Irish insurance customers and it should commence without any further delay.”

Brokers Ireland, which represents more than 1,000 insurance broker firms, criticised the measures.

The organisation’s director of general insurance, Cathie Shannon, said: “Rather than streamlining the insurance-buying process, these changes will also ensure that even more paperwork will be provided to consumers in connection with the insurance they are purchasing, with no indication that any of it will be read.”

She conceded that while the intention behind the changes was to provide greater transparency for consumers, there is a risk that “in the initial stages in particular that confusion would be caused”.

She added: “Consumers would be expected to navigate and digest the additional information and some might well be motivated to choose the cheapest of the motor quotations provided, with too little or no regard for the level of cover provided.”

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson on finance said the reforms are in what he called the “easy win” category.

Michael McGrath said the changes “should have happened a long time ago”.

Mr McGrath added that they “come nowhere close to what is needed to tackle the insurance crisis. The Government either doesn’t realise the scale of the insurance crisis facing consumers and businesses or it doesn’t care”.

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