Motorists here at risk from failing foreign car insurers
Officials here fear that some Irish motorists are at risk of being left out of pocket and uninsured in a potential repeat of last year's collapse of Gibraltar-based Enterprise Insurance.
Irish officials fear not enough is being done by regulators in the UK territory to prevent a repeat of the case.
It's understood that senior Central Bank staff have raised concerns with the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission in relation to motor insurers selling in Ireland.
Data from the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland shows 11 companies based in Gibraltar sell motor insurance here, including through Irish brokers.
In most cases they operate successfully and without raising any Irish concerns, but, Irish officials are understood to be unhappy about the viability of the business model of a small number of firms, and have challenged regulators in the British territory over the issue.
Last July's collapse of Gibraltar-based Enterprise Insurance hit 14,000 Irish motorists. The case had echoes of the collapse in 2014 of Malta regulated Setanta Insurance which left 75,000 Irish drivers out of pocket and €90m of unpaid insurance claims. In both cases, the insurers were regulated outside the State but free to operate here regardless of any concerns on the ground.
Under EU 'passporting' rules, Ireland is forbidden from preventing any insurance company operating here if it is approved by regulators elsewhere in the EU. It's understood that officials here are now satisfied that the regime in Malta is robust.
However, in the case of Gibraltar, the Central Bank has raised its concerns both directly with authorities there, and through the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), but is still worried.
In the meantime, regulators here are not even allowed to warn consumers of any fears about the financial viability of individual companies that have been approved elsewhere in the EU. That is understood to be a major source of frustration at the Central Bank.
The news will be a concern to motorists who rely on the current regulatory regime. Previous insurance collapses have left drivers with no cover despite having paid their premiums. In some cases, outstanding insurance claims have not been paid, while in others the bill has been loaded back on motorists through levies.
The situation raises the prospect of drivers needing to second-guess authorities and carry out their own due diligence on insurers, including looking at the small print of policies to see where underwriters are based.