Monday 21 January 2019

Charlie Weston: Whichever way drivers turn, they are hit in the pocket

Car stock image
Car stock image
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

It seems that if you are a driver in this country then it is a case of every which way you lose.

Motorists here have been hit hard by surging insurance premiums lately.

There are a complicated number of reasons for this, including under-pricing and under-reserving in the past by insurers, tougher regulatory rules and very high award levels in personal injuries cases.

There seems to be very little disincentive to making an insurance claim.

A case in point came earlier this week when a man who burned down his own business for the insurance pay-out walked free from court, despite putting firefighters at risk.

Pressure on insurance premiums also comes from the collapse of a number of insurers here.

The list of bust insurers includes Quinn, Enterprise and Setanta.

Bailing them out is costing a fortune.

This is why we are soon to have three different levies or charges on motor policies.

It is a long time since PMPA went bust, but a levy put in place to rescue it has since mutated into a 3pc stamp duty on non-life insurance policies.

Then there is a 2pc levy which is paid into the Insurance Compensation Fund, but most of this is being eaten up from the cost of the Quinn Insurance collapse.

Now there will be a third levy, of 2pc, to ensure those with a claim on a collapsed insurers such as Setanta get 100pc of claims pay-outs.

The Department of Finance insists this is an industry compensation and insurers can choose to apply it on motor policies or absorb it, but the expectation is that it will be slapped on drivers' policies.

The need for the new levy is because the cost of the Quinn Insurance claims is so high that the existing Insurance Compensation Fund is overwhelmed.

Bailing out Quinn Insurance is costing €1.1bn, and we in this country are paying for the €360m of that which is made up of claims in Northern Ireland and Britain.

Quinn Insurance was a single company, and did not have separate Northern Ireland or British divisions.

This led to a decision being taken to cover all the claims, irrespective of where they arose, when it was placed into administration.

However, changes in European rules since the Quinn collapse mean such a situation will not arise in future.

That decision means the country where the insurance is written pays out when there is a company collapse.

But that has backfired on us as well, as we have ended up paying for Setanta claims even though that company was registered and regulated in Malta. It sold insurance exclusively in Ireland.

It seems the solution to every crash in the insurance industry here is to hit the policyholder.

In other words, 'pay up pixies' is the answer every time there is a problem.

Irish Independent

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