Thursday, 20 September 2018
Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Bill 2018: Second Stage
While progress has been made, we have not come back to a level that would accord with normal increases. Even if one looks at where we are today compared to 2012, the rate of increase is abnormal compared to the cost of living in general. That is a fair point to make.
Before I refer to the provisions included in the Bill, many of us, as public representatives, receive complaints from individuals. The reason the Minister of State has heard colleagues talk about the cost of motor insurance is so many people have motor insurance policies. Businesses, including small businesses, are also experiencing severe difficulties and not without victims and other casualties. The only way a business can survive is by passing on the cost; therefore, all of us as consumers pay one way or the other. If a business cannot bear the cost of its insurance policy and cannot pass it on, it will fold. If it survives and can pass it on, as consumers we will all pay.
I have a couple of comments to make on the working group on the cost of motor insurance, but, as I have said in the House before, while the global figures indicate that there are decreases, it appears to me that there are certain groups and classes of people who are being targeted. Initially, it seemed that young drivers were paying a premium, but I have noticed in my area that there are now additional groups. Older drivers are facing increases at an earlier age. People who have changed their address to within a couple of miles of where they used to live have seen increases in premiums. Owners of ten year old cars or older have also experienced increases in premiums. It is fair to say that in the modern era where cars are relatively well maintained and subject to the NCT on a regular basis, a ten year old car should not be seen as a liability.
I was chatting to someone because I have a son who is of an age at which he is looking for his first car.
He has passed his test and he is insured. There is something wrong when the cost of the insurance is likely to be more than the cost of the car. Would we not be better ensuring that the car was a better quality and more roadworthy? However, the reality for many first-time drivers and young people who want their own car rather than just being a named driver on their parent's car, is that the insurance premium is likely to be more than the cost of the car. I think we need to examine that because something is fundamentally wrong and needs to be reversed. I am aware there are all sorts of technologies that can be used to monitor the speed and driving patterns but as a general rule we need to address that.
I indicated that a number of the actions that were agreed by the working group have not been progressed as quickly as possible, which is regrettable. Rather than taking individual actions, the only way we are going to make progress is by executing all of those actions together. While today we are talking about a database that would be useful for potential insurers coming into the market, we previously talked about a database of uninsured drivers that could be accessed by the Garda. There is a cost associated with that. However, we have not made the level of progress on those areas that we had anticipated. I am not in favour of dealing with one aspect over another. A renewed urgency is required to implement all of the actions.
I am conscious that the Minister of State inherited the programme and that he did not develop it but he is responsible for its execution. I often wonder why one particular recommendation has not been enacted, namely, that consumers would be informed as to the reason or reasons for a significant increase in premium. It is probably the single biggest concern that arises. In some cases people get increases of €200 or more on the previous year, especially at a time when we in this House are talking about the two-year effect or the 2017 effect of premium reductions. Something is wrong if somebody gets a significant increase on last year's premium for the same vehicle without having had an accident. People need to be given an explanation as to why that is. I know many people shop around and often, having shopped around, come back to their own insurer and get a reduction but that is not good enough. It is sharp practice to say the least.
It is also important that policyholders are informed of claims made against them before a settlement is reached. I am sure the Minister of State has heard of cases where it arises that settlements are made but the insured party is not aware a claim had been made.
Fraud prevention is an issue that was supposed to be dealt with last year. There has been much talk about it and proposals as to how it would be funded but it has not happened as quickly as we would have liked.
While I acknowledge the work behind the Bill and welcome and support it, I specifically wanted to refer to the fact that if the other actions are not advanced in a timely fashion we will not achieve the desired impact, which would be regrettable. I have used the opportunity, perhaps not correctly, to review some of the actions in the recommendations of the working group. I am aware the sixth review has taken place but apart from that it is important that meaningful efforts are made to fast-track the actions that have slipped behind their schedule date.
I do not wish to delay the legislation because my colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, would be quite annoyed. We are supportive of it but if it is to have the expected effect then the other elements of the action plan must be delivered also.