Thursday 19 September 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Watchdog must show its teeth to get companies to act on costs'


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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Almost everybody in this country has some form of insurance, which is generally paid begrudgingly.

Whether it's for motor, health, travel or business cover, it's an investment we hope never to have to make a profit on.

But somebody is cashing in big time. Insurance companies' earnings are on the rise along with premiums. Three of the major firms - Aviva, RSA and FBD - reported combined profits of almost €200m for last year.

Insurers have argued that they are merely insulating themselves from a crazy compensation culture and greedy lawyers.

Businesses believe they are being ripped off at a time when the economy is going strong. The only thing that both sides tend to agree on is the Government needs to act.

To be fair there have been some initiatives.

A heavy focus on motor insurance has seen prices fall by upwards of 20pc since a peak in July 2016. Greater powers have been given to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and, just before its summer recess, the Dáil passed legislation which should see compo pay-outs recalibrated downwards.

However, progress is regressively slow and we hear continuous stories of businesses facing closure because of insurance costs.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys was the first Government minister to read the public mood on the now infamous 'swing-gate' episode.

Back in May, she told the Dáil that businesses "feel that they are being punished for this compensation culture".

"I have to say that my view on this is very simple - people need to have some common sense and they need to be responsible for their own personal safety.

"So if you trip or you fall, you have to ask yourself why it happened, and more often than not the answer is because of your own carelessness," she said.

More of that straight-talking is needed from Government, along with reform. Today, we reveal that in the background Ms Humphreys has been working with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to establish an investigation into the market. Of course, the fear is that the watchdog will find itself toothless when going up against an industry which has a history of being slow to engage. Or that we end up with another report that will gather dust on a shelf.

That can't be allowed because this issue is affecting the very fabric of Irish society. Festivals, play centres and even tidy towns' committees have all been curtailed.

They are paying the financial price now. In time, the Government will pay a political price unless change is made to happen.

Irish Independent

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