Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Business Insurance: Motion [Private Members]
Pat Buckley (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Private Members' motion and I commend Deputy Michael McGrath and Fianna Fáil on bringing it forward. I hope Fianna Fáil will support the Sinn Féin amendment to strengthen the motion. We have all heard about the issue this country has with insurance. I will give a couple of examples. Insurance costs are crippling businesses, sports clubs, charities and non-governmental organisations, NGOs. The issue of insurance is creeping into housing estates, including voluntary housing estates, complicating even the simple act of cutting and maintaining grass. People living in rural areas cannot afford public liability insurance. There is a knock-on effect.
One of my constituents raised the issue of regulation. We have a law requiring anybody who operates a motor vehicle to have insurance, but we do not have a law that requires insurance companies to be prudent in how they work. I will raise a couple of issues to show what I mean by "prudent". Insurance companies often settle motor accident claims out of court. Let us suppose that two people are involved in a motor accident, An Garda Síochána is called and it is reported to the insurance company. The purported perpetrator is often left out of the equation and the case is settled between the Garda and the insurance company. The individual in question will have his or her insurance payment increase without any representation. That is another issue that has to be addressed. Surely it is not legal for insurance customers to pay premiums and not have representation.
Sinn Féin is not against insurance companies. However, they have had a free run. The three main insurance companies mentioned in this debate made profits of €99 million last year. A young fellow with a credit union loan who has just bought a new car because he has a job can be asked to spend between €4,000 and €5,000 a year to drive to work. He will not have much left by the time he pays his premium and credit union loan and supports his family. This is having a detrimental effect on young people. It is not just a rural issue. Premiums are extortionate no matter where one lives and these is no justification for them. I cannot understand why we cannot have a Government-led fund. That is another idea to think about.
On flood insurance, I live in Midleton in east Cork. We experienced flooding in one area, but that is a different issue. Many constituents have told me that insurance companies will not give them a quotation. One particular constituent lives on Forest Hill, Midleton, which is an estate built on a hill. The insurance company told him it could not give him a quote because his property was a flood risk. The only way the estate could be flooded would be for the water works at the back of the hill to burst. If there was flooding on the other side of the hill, the whole town would be flooded. Insurance companies have a free run and this is abuse on their part. We must regulate them properly and fairly. I do not know how we could do that but perhaps premiums should be tied to the consumer price index.
We have a large number of young people and small businesses to consider. There are charities and organisations that will not even hold a fundraising event because the cost of public liability insurance will shut them down. I will give another example. I was involved in an event for suicide prevention. We had to pay €700 for liability insurance beforehand for a two-hour event in a cul-de-sac. That is how criminal this can be.
I welcome the motion, on which I congratulate Fianna Fáil, and call on that party to support our amendment to strengthen it.