Sunday 18 March 2018

Charlie Weston: How motorists have been driven round the bend by industry with no sense of shame

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Stock picture
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Insurers have a hard neck. They have put motorists through the financial wringer. Premiums have risen by 70pc on average over the past three years.

Granted they have begun to fall lately, but many motorists have to pick themselves up off the floor when renewal notices arrive in the post, such have been the rises.

Now motor insurers are returning to profitability, and it is more than a little galling for motorists to realise that they have effectively bailed out the insurance industry here.

The return to profitability should be accompanied with an apology to motorists, because the rap sheet against insurers is long and damning.

They are guilty of poor management of their businesses. This has manifested itself in under-pricing of premiums in the run-up to the insurance crisis, in what was a foolish race for market share.

Most insurers displayed all the maturity and far-sightedness of a child who has six cans of fizzy drink and then jumps on a roller-coaster at a fairground.

Insurers also got caught out putting too little money into their reserves.

Then there were financial scandals. RSA lost so much money here in 2013 that its British parent had to stuff €500m into it to bail it out.And we are all paying for the calamity that was Quinn Insurance. A levy of 2pc on policies brings in around €65m a year.

Insurers blame our high compensation awards and the prevalence of so many dodgy claims in the system for the premium hikes.

It is undoubtedly the case that false claims are a feature of the system, and this is being paid for by honest drivers. But insurers have to take responsibility for this mess too. With the exception of Aviva, many of them are too ready to settle rather than incur legal costs that typically add €42,000 to a €100,000 court award.

And the insurers' own lobby group recently admitted that claim costs were up by 7pc since 2013.

But premium rises have been 10 times higher.

Now that they are profitable again, it is high time insurers got into reverse gear and paid back motorists with radically lower premiums to thank them for saving their bacon.

Irish Independent

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