Monday 14 October 2019

Insurance price-fix inquiries set to drag on

Concern over EU and State probes

Inquiry: CCPC boss Isolde Goggin said it had seized 1.4 million emails and other documents
Inquiry: CCPC boss Isolde Goggin said it had seized 1.4 million emails and other documents

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

TWO watchdogs investigating alleged anti-competitive practices in insurance firms can't say what progress they have made and when they will complete their probes.

The European Competition Directorate and the State's Consumer Protection Commission have each spent more than two years investing insurers here.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath has been told by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager that there was no timeline for when its probe will finish.

Meanwhile, insurer RSA has reported profits of €35m in this country last year, up from €10.5m in the previous year.

The powerful European Union's Competition Directorate raided insurance brokers and representative body Insurance Ireland in July 2017 over alleged cartel activity in the motor insurance market. Documents were seized.

Ms Vestager, in a letter to Mr McGrath, said her officers were continuing to analyse the material taken in the raids.

"Our purpose is to assess whether the motor insurance market in Ireland is suffering from anti-competitive practices that hamper consumers' choice in accessing insurance products and their ability to secure services at competitive terms."

She added that there was no precise timeline for when the probe was finished, and no decision had been made on whether formal proceedings would follow.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has been probing allegations of price signalling since the end of 2016.

Chairwoman Isolde Goggin told Mr McGrath it has held 55 witness summons hearings and seized 1.4 million emails and other documents from the insurers it is probing.

"The investigation is in its latter states, but at this point we are unable to provide a definitive indication as to when the investigation will conclude," she said.

Mr McGrath said motorists need to be told if the two watchdogs have discovered anti-competitive practices.

Meanwhile, a new group made up of representatives of 85 play centres, pet farms and multi-activity centres has criticised the minister with responsibility for insurance reform, Michael D'Arcy, for what it said was a lack of action.

Play and Activity Ireland spokeswoman Linda Murray said its members had met Mr D'Arcy three times "and all we hear about is report after report that shows there is a big issue with insurance for businesses".

She said play centres were being forced to close due to a surge in premiums.

Members of Play and Activity Ireland were angry the Government was not implementing reforms it had proposed to deal with the insurance crisis.

Irish Independent

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