Tuesday 20 March 2018

Central Bank denies trying to force insurance companies authorised outside State to stop doing business here

At €47.86bn, it surpassed the previous peak in 2007. Stock Image
At €47.86bn, it surpassed the previous peak in 2007. Stock Image
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

THE Central Bank has rejected claims that it is trying to force insurance companies authorised outside the State to stop doing business here.

And it has denied it is trying to get them to rebrand to show they are offering insurance cover from companies authorised in another European state.

It is merely trying to get agents here for foreign-regulated insurers to state clearly the name of the firm underwriting the cover, and the country where it is regulated, the Central Bank said.

The Central Bank was reacting after a huge argument broke out between it and insurance agents that are regulated here, but sell insurance underwritten by insurers that passport in here using EU freedom of services rules.

These agents have accused the Central Bank of trying to stifle competition in the insurance market, pointing out that some of the entities using the freedom of services provisions to passport in here have better credit ratings than domestic players.

The insurance agents based here, known as managing general agents (MGAs), have been told by the Central Bank they must make it clear to Irish consumers that they are not incorporated in the Republic.

Intermediaries such as Chill Insurance and Bump label insurance policies under their own brands. They operate as managing general agents.

They were also told to rebrand and make clear that the underlying insurer is not regulated in Ireland, and to state its name and the country where it is regulated.

A letter sent to the managing general agents, and seen by Independent.ie, states: “Therefore, the Bank requires that the firm reviews all policy and associated documentation which is provided to consumers in Ireland, either directly or through any appointed intermediaries, to ensure that there is no MGA branding on policy and associated documentation, and that all references to the insurance company and underwriter is to the FOS [freedom of service] insurance company and not to any appointed MGA.”

Contacted, the Central Bank appeared to back-track and denied it was demanding that manging general agents rebrand to start using the name of the insurance underwriter when issuing policy documents.

The spokeswoman said the Bank has written to insurance firms that are operating in the motor insurance market in Ireland on a freedom of services basis, (where a firm is authorised in another EU Member State), and their appointed agents, to ensure that the name of the insurance company and its country of incorporation are disclosed on all policy documentation, in a way that would not confuse the consumer.

She insisted that it was not a case of rebranding, just making clear to consumers the name of the underwriter of the policy, and where it is regulated.

“It is important that consumers check this information before taking out insurance so that they are fully informed of who they are dealing with and can satisfy themselves on the insurer who is underwriting their policy, particularly where the policy is bought from a broker,” the Central Bank said.

The Central Bank is concerned that there is no repeat of the chaos created by the collapse of Malta-regulated and registered Setanta Insurance in 2014, and Gibraltar-regulated Enterprise Insurance last year.

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