Combined Insurance being investigated over sales methods
THE sales and governance practices of niche insurer Combined Insurance are being investigated by the Financial Regulator, the Irish Independent has learned.
Employing about 50 people, Combined Insurance specialises in accident and illness products like hospital benefit, sickness income plans and accidental disability plans.
The business is relatively low-profile but hit the headlines earlier in the year following revelations of complaints to the Financial Ombudsman about Combined's selling practices.
The family of a 77-year-old farmer claimed he had been sold nine unnecessary policies over a 15-year period and had eventually put barbed wire up on his gate to prevent Combined's sales force from calling.
Combined vowed to investigate the claims, but the Irish Independent understands that the insurance company has also become the subject of an investigation by the Financial Regulator.
The investigation, which has been going on for several months, is understood to be at an "advanced stage" with an outcome expected over the coming weeks.
The probe is limited to the selling practices and governance applied by Combined, making it completely different to the investigation into Quinn Insurance which encompassed the firm's capital and solvency.
Crucially, the Regulator is understood not to be concerned with Combined's ability to pay its claims.
Sanctions available to the regulator include fines of up to €5m for the company and up to €500,000 for executives, as well as a raft of restrictions.
The Financial Regulator declined to comment last night, as did Combined.
Owned by US giant ACE since 2008, Combined's Irish branch also encompasses business across Austria, Spain, Portugal and Germany.
Accounts for 2008 show premiums of €74m and a dividend payment of €30m to ACE.