Saturday 19 January 2019

Competition body is accused of taking too long to probe insurance industry

Isolde Goggin, Competition and Consumer Protection Commissioner
Isolde Goggin, Competition and Consumer Protection Commissioner

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

THE lack of progress in a probe into the insurance sector by the State's competition authority has been criticised.

It is now exactly two years since the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced it was undertaking an investigation into price signalling in the insurance market.

But a final report or any enforcement actions have yet to emerge.

The competition body suspects that motor insurers have been signalling to each other to raise prices at the same time.

It said in its most recently annual report: "Statements signalling future pricing intentions may result in a degree of unspoken coordination between competitors which may breach competition law."

Policy adviser to the Consumers' Association of Ireland Dermott Jewell said it was concerning that after two years motorists were yet to see any tangible results from the probe by the competition czars.

"We need to know why this is taking so long, and why a report has not been put into the public domain.

"Insurance is still extremely expensive," he said.

Asked why the probe had yet to reach any conclusions, the CCPC said similar investigations by the European Commission take an average of more than four years.

The spokesperson for the commission, which is headed up by Isolde Goggin, insisted the probe was an advanced stage, but it is unable to say when it will finish.

It has issued a number of summons requiring people in the insurance industry to turn up at hearings and answer questions under oath.

Some 1.4 million documents and emails have been secured from the insurance companies under investigation, the CCPC said.

The probe is separate to one initiated last year by the European Commission into insurers.

However, the CCPC said it was assisting the Commission in its work.

"We will continue to make enquiries until we are satisfied that we are in a position to make a determination on the conduct," the CCPC spokesperson said.

The competition body insisted it was working as efficiently as possible.

There was no answer from the CCPC when asked what the cost of the probe has been so far.

Insurance Ireland, which represents the industry, had no comment.

Irish Independent

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