Dundalk TD Peter Fitzpatrick has raised concerns about “the soaring cost of business insurance” after it emerged the Dundalk based trampoline park ‘Airbound’ is facing closure next month because it cannot secure an insurance provider.
Speaking in the Dail, Deputy Fitzpatrick outlined how insurance renewals have increased by 15% in the past year.
“In the hospitality sector, insurance has increased by an average of 10%. This is despite the fact this sector has been practically closed for the past 12 to 18 months. This is not on. This is despite the fact that new personal injuries guidelines have been introduced. These new measures have resulted in reductions in personal injury awards, which should have resulted in reductions in insurance premiums. Unfortunately, this is not happening and businesses deserve to know why their premiums continue to rise.
He highlighted concerns as to why the insurance industry “is not passing on these reductions to their customers?
“I have been contacted by many local businesses in Dundalk regarding their insurance costs. In some cases they have doubled compared to the previous year. This has the potential to put many businesses on the brink,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. “I want to talk about one business in Dundalk that has contacted me. Air Bound Trampoline Park provides fun and fitness for children and adults. It is a great place for children and their friends to visit. It is also a wonderful place for parents of autistic children and other children with disabilities to bring their children for much-needed leisure activities. When the children were not in school, Air Bound was open seven days a week and when the schools went back to normal, it opened four days a week. It employs 16 staff, many of whom are students who use it to pay their way through college.”
“Almost two years ago, the park was closed because it could not get insurance. Luckily, someone came in and helped out. On 12th December, the park is facing the same challenge when it comes to insurance. At this point in time, no insurance underwriter will offer it insurance. It has no outstanding claims. It is being told the insurance company that deals specifically with activities and leisure parks is pulling out of Ireland due to the ever-increasing red tape being introduced by the Central Bank. If this is the case, the Government must act now. We cannot see businesses such as Air Bound Trampoline Park closed because they cannot get insurance.”
Taoiseach Michael Martin said “The Government is very aware of the affordability issues and the difficulties very often with getting adequate insurance cover and availability of cover for certain businesses, particularly in the leisure sector and the sector the Deputy has just outlined. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets here. The Government has taken action through a range of measures in our action plan for insurance reform. This has involved the implementation of the personal injuries guidelines to replace the book of quantum six months ahead of schedule.”
He said there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of awards issued.
“We want to see this followed through in reduced premiums from companies. The insurance industry needs to come up to the plate and respond to the changes the Government has made in terms of insurance. We have also established an office in the Department of Finance to promote competition in the insurance market.”
The Taoiseach added that new legislation is expected which will “help to address the slips, trips and falls issue, which is very prevalent in footfall intensive areas such as the leisure industry and activity-related pursuits.”
But he pointed out that “there is an onus on the industry to respond to the reforms that have taken place and that are taking place. We are particularly conscious of companies such as those referenced by the Deputy, with regard to trampolines and the leisure industry more generally, particularly those looking after children’s recreational interests and the difficulties they are having.“
“I fully commend the work of Air Bound with children with disabilities and special needs. Unfortunately, under the EU Solvency II legislation, the Government is prohibited from setting insurance premiums so there is no silver bullet. However, I would like to hear more detail on the background to this.”
Deputy Fitzpatrick added that the urgency of the matter, saying that the trampoline park is set to close on 12th December because “it cannot get insurance.”
“It is not the owners’ fault. Nobody wants to give them insurance. They want to pay for their insurance. They have been there for a number of years. What will I tell the parents contacting me who have autistic children and children with disabilities? Adults also use it. The trampoline park opened a couple of weeks ago for one adult. It made no money. This is not all about money. These businesses are there to look after people with disabilities. How can a company that pays its way not get insurance? I cannot understand it. It has tried everything.”