Charlie Weston: Hard to avoid the conclusion insurance reform is no longer a major Government priority
Are much-needed reforms of the motor insurance sector stalling due to a lack of enthusiasm from the Government? That is certainly the conclusion that is hard to avoid when considering the latest update of the Government's Cost of Insurance Working Group, put in place to implement large-scale change to tackle surging insurance costs.
This comes as yet another insurer has reported bumper profits just three years after hiking premium rates by an average of 70pc. FBD reported profits of €50m last year, up sharply from profits of €11.4m the previous year.
It is just the latest insurance group to report healthy profits in this market, as the industry recovers on the back of the huge premium rate hikes.
The market may be working for the insurers, but the same cannot be said for motorists.
The Government's working group, which is chaired by Junior Finance Minister Michael D'Arcy, does not seem to be delivering for drivers.
Take the promise by motor insurers to notify drivers when claims are made against them before they are settled.
The working report states: "Insurance Ireland is to put in place a general protocol around the requirement for insurance companies to notify a policyholder of claims made against them before settlement."
But the Insurance Reform Alliance, set up by businesses and charities to fight for lower premiums, says this should already be in place.
Peter Boland of the Alliance claimed the Department of Finance reform process was now beginning to look like an exercise in deflecting pressure on the insurance issue until the heat dies down or an election comes.
A spokesperson for D'Arcy said the minister disagrees with the claim by the Insurance Reform Alliance that no progress has been made or that the latest report was a "box-ticking exercise".
She said the Government remains committed to continue driving implementation of the reform in a timely manner in line with the prescribed deadlines.
A spokesman for Insurance Ireland said a previous protocol to inform drivers when a settlement is being made has been superseded by the Central Bank of Ireland's Consumer Protection Code.
Insurance Ireland's view is that the recommendation that policyholders be informed if there is a claim is best achieved through changes in the Consumer Protection Code. So, we have buck-passing.
Amid all this arguing, drivers continue to pay elevated premiums.
Sunday Indo Business