Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill 2017: From the Seanad
I thank all the Deputies who have contributed to this legislation, particularly Deputy Pearse Doherty. He chased me and I chased everyone else. I think we got a good Bill at the end of that process. I thank the LRC. Deputy Doherty and his staff have worked hard on this matter. I thank the officials in the insurance section of the Department. I thank our in-house staff in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
We all have a part to play in insurance reform. There are too many vested interests who put themselves first. It is not good enough that customers and consumers come last with regard to insurance. This important legislation will put the consumer first and at the top of the queue instead of at the back of the queue. The vested interests include the insurance companies. Sections of the law profession and the legal world are looking after themselves as well.
All the legislation that is being introduced in this area will put us in a better position. As I have done on many occasions, I thank Deputies and Senators for their support in getting insurance legislation, including the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018, through both Houses. When the 2018 motor insurance transparency report was published earlier this week, we saw the benefit of the passing this time last year of the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018. We have amended sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 to change how data can be held and how people can use that data. Inferences can now be made against someone who does not, within a month, inform the person against whom a case is being taken that such a case is being taken.
Following on from the enactment of the Judicial Council Act 2019, which is another crucial piece of this legislative framework, the seven judges started to consider this matter yesterday. I cannot emphasise enough that the sooner their work is done, the sooner the award levels made in respect of smaller and less damaging claims will come down and we will be in a position akin to that of other jurisdictions. The era of tens of thousands of euro being awarded in respect of incidents involving very little damage or very little impact on people has to end sooner rather than later. The next part of this framework to come before the House will be the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018. I hope we will be able to get that legislation through as quickly as possible as well. The end of the era in which people got a lot of money in respect of false, fraudulent and exaggerated claims even though there had been very little impact on them will have a cumulative effect that will benefit consumers. This Bill is all about consumers. I wish everybody a happy Christmas. I thank Deputies for all their work and for the support they have given my efforts to tackle the insurance sector.