Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


5:25 pm

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú) | Oireachtas source

I am delighted to speak in favour of the Regional Group's Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2021. So far in this Dáil, my colleagues and I in the group have chosen to prioritise reform of the insurance industry. Outside of Covid-19, insurance dysfunction has cost so many people so much, including families, homeowners, drivers and many small business owners. This dsyfunction did not happen by accident. It is the result of a closed market where there is little or no competition. We see profiteering, gouging and the very opposite of decent business practices that should incentivise customer loyalty. The insurance sector has been protected by years of Government inaction. Many Governments have dragged their feet when called to reform the industry and the dysfunction has wreaked massive damage throughout society.

There is no doubt that businesses are being wiped out. I have been talking to people in my constituency about insurance premiums. In one case, insurance costs went up from €2,000 to €15,000 in the space of a couple of years while in another case, the cost rose from €50,000 to €130,000. For most businesses, margins do not allow for that level of cost increase, that is assuming they can get insurance in the first place. Drivers have been gouged. Under the current system, the more loyal the customer, the more of a fool he or she is. The pricing model acts as a tax on older people who do not have the ability to shop around. Children's sports groups, Irish dancing classes and festivals around the country have contacted my office about their inability to procure insurance. If they cannot procure insurance, they will be wiped out.

Two investigations into this dysfunctional market are under way. An investigation by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, has found that five insurance companies, an insurance industry trade association and an insurance broker allegedly engaged in anti-competitive co-operation. A parallel investigation into the insurance industry is being undertaken by the European Commission. There were dawn raids on the offices of insurance companies in 2017. One literally could not write this.

This Bill, one of several being worked on by the Regional Group, seeks to reform the sector and protect the consumer. My political party, Aontú, has been working with the Alliance for Insurance Reform. We have organised public meetings, including in County Meath, in an effort to raise the profile of this critical issue. The purpose of this Bill is to increase penalties for those found guilty of an offence under section 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act of 2004 which deals with fraudulent actions. People should not be able to bring fraudulent claims to court and if they do so, they should not get off scot-free. There must be a cost to fraud.

Earlier in this Dáil term, the Regional Group tabled a Private Members' motion on perjury in court. I urge the Government to go further on this and to create a Garda insurance fraud unit. We need to redefine and rebalance the common duty of care to require the occupier to have duty that is reasonable, practical and proportionate. We need to reform the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, ban dual pricing and make the insurance industry more competitive.


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