Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Business Insurance: Motion [Private Members]
Declan Breathnach (Louth, Fianna Fail)
I wish to start where the Minister of State left off. He stated that a carrot-and-stick approach is being taken. That is a fine idiom, but the stick is only as good as the jockey who is holding it. I will be holding the Minister of State to account regarding the usage of that stick.
The motion clearly focuses on the crisis facing businesses, sporting clubs and community organisations across the country as a result of increases in the cost of employer and public liability insurance. I have previously stated in the House during debates on this issue that not alone are insurance costs putting people out of business, there will come a time when voluntary organisations, particularly those in leadership roles in such organisations, will no longer wish to offer their services.
Last week, I was fortunate to attend the local enterprise awards of Louth County Council which made clear the efforts being made by businesses to employ people. We, as legislators, need to assist those small businesses by reducing insurance costs. I have received representations from several businesses which are facing closure, as have many other Members of this House. The owner of a processing business contacted me with a specific problem. He was dealing with a local broker, but was precluded from dealing with an alternative broker or directly with a large insurer because his initial broker had received a quote for his company. He was stuck and not allowed to shop around for that reason.
I have been informed that many insurance companies now use large call centres which deal with many of the largest players in the industry. The call centre staff can see previous quotes given to customers and are offering quotes based thereon. If that is not a cartel, I do not know what is.
A responsible employer notified his insurance company because one of his staff cut a finger and went to an accident and emergency department. The staff member had no intention of claiming but the employer made sure to notify his insurance company. His premium increased by €2,000 that year. No claim was ever lodged and no money was ever paid out. This issue is crippling businesses and local organisations. We need to get to grips with it.