Wednesday 13 December 2017

Gibraltar insurance regulator insists its standards as high as those in Ireland, after concerns raised

The Central Bank headquarters. Stock Image
The Central Bank headquarters. Stock Image

Donal O’Donovan

GIBRALTAR'S top insurance regulator has insisted that companies there operate at the same standard as others in the EU, including Ireland.

She was responding after the Irish Independent revealed that senior Central Bank staff here had raised repeated concerns with the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission in relation to some motor insurers selling in Ireland.

The Irish officials fear not enough has been done by regulators in Gibraltar to prevent a repeat of last year’s collapse of Gibraltar-based Enterprise Insurance, which hit 14,000 Irish motorists.

Central Bank staff are understood to have raised issues around the financial viability of some insurance providers with both regulators in Gibraltar and at the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA).

The situation is understood to have caused frustration for officials here because under EU 'passporting' rules, Ireland cannot preventing any insurance company operating here if it is approved by regulators elsewhere in the EU, regardless of their own fears about particular operators. 

However, the chief executive of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC), Samantha Barrass, has insisted that insurers under her watch comply with all EU standards. She said her agency cooperates with the Irish authorities.

“We proactively share information with all the host state regulators of the jurisdictions in which our Gibraltar insurance companies operate and we participate in joint supervision activity. We consider that we have a strong working relationship with the CBI,” she said.

Gibraltar’s Samantha Barrass said there shouldn’t be any grounds for concern.

“We are a National Competent Authority (NCA) in the EU, operating as a part of the EIOPA group of insurance regulators. A very important part of the work we do is the close and collaborative work with EIOPA and the other regulators in all jurisdictions within which our firms operate. This includes the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI),” she said in a statement. 

Gibraltar has implemented tough new rules, dubbed the Solvency II Directive, governing the financial health of all insurers, she said.

“An important outcome of this Directive is for host jurisdictions and consumers to have confidence that the provision of insurance services is delivered to the same consistently high standards across the EU and from firms that passport into their territory,” she said. 

Gibraltar’s insurance regulators are especially important to 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 such external insurers, the bulk of the market, operate without raising any Irish concerns.

However, we now know that officials here do not have full confidence in some operates, and therefore with the wider Single Market system.

The case cuts to the heart of the Single Market. For it to work Irish consumers must be able to trust that any EU compliant service sold here meets the same standard as those originating and regulated in Ireland. Similarly, any manufacturer from across the EU is free to sell their product here without being subject to local quality testing - with consumers taking on trust that high standards apply.

Irish drivers have now been left in a near impossible situation – knowing that senior Central Bank staff in Dublin are concerned about some insurers that are operating here, but without clearer guidance on which.

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