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Motor insurers agree to open up access to claims database after European Commission probe


Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

MOTOR insurers in this country have committed to ensuring fair access to a claims database they hold after a probe into anti-competitive practices by the European Commission.

It comes after the EU Commission told Insurance Ireland last year that it has formed the preliminary view that it breached competition rules in the motor market.

Insurance Ireland insists it did not infringe any rules but has agreed to a number of legally-binding commitments to open up its fraud database to insurers that want to enter this market.

Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said the Commission has now made the commitments offered by Insurance Ireland legally binding under EU antitrust rules.

Insurance Ireland is an association of Irish insurers.

The concession by Insurance Ireland to enter into legally binding commitments with the Commission comes after officials from the Commission led dawn raids in 2017 on insurance bodies here over alleged cartel activity.

It then opened a formal investigation in May 2019. The latest development brings to an end the five-year investigative process.

The probe focused on the Insurance Ireland’s Insurance Link information exchange system.

This database is sometimes referred to a fraud information system, but Insurance Ireland says it is a claims database.

Any insurer entering this market needs access to it. Accusations that access to it were being restricted prompted the Commission probe, an allegation always denied by Insurance Ireland.

Ms Vestager said the database contains important data for companies offering motor vehicle insurance services in Ireland.

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“Insurance Ireland has offered commitments which will ensure access to its data sharing system on a fair, transparent, objective and non-discriminatory basis.”

She said the Commission has now made this binding.

“The commitments will restore the level playing field in the Irish motor insurance market and ease the entry of new players.”

This will mean consumers may benefit from a larger choice of suppliers.

She said that last June the Commission outlined its preliminary view that Insurance Ireland arbitrarily delayed or in practice denied access of non-members to its Insurance Link information exchange system, thereby restricting competition in the Irish motor vehicle insurance market.

Insurance Ireland welcomed the end of the probe of its claims database, and insisted the Commission had not made a finding of infringement by Insurance Ireland.

“The offer of the commitments is not an acknowledgement that Insurance Ireland has infringed competition law and Insurance Ireland notes that the European Commission has not found that Insurance Ireland has infringed competition law,” chief executive of the organisation Moyagh Murdock said.

She said the commitments provide for clear criteria and procedures on access to the InsuranceLink database.

“We have cooperated fully and worked constructively with the European Commission over the course of its investigation to allay concerns raised in relation to InsuranceLink, and we are pleased that the Commission has decided to accept the commitments and conclude its investigation,” Ms Murdock said.

Insurance Ireland has committed to make the access to Insurance Link independent from membership to Insurance Ireland.

It has also signed up to change the access criteria to Insurance Link and make them fair, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory to all applicants, from Ireland and other EU member states.

It has also agreed to ensure that the criteria for becoming member of the Insurance Ireland association will be fair, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory.

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