Thursday, 20 July 2017
Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages
I welcome the passing of the Bill and I thank the Minister of State. Less than two weeks ago we did not have one of these Bills and now we have two of them, being the Sinn Féin Bill from last week and the Government Bill of this week. This Bill supersedes and ultimately replaces most of what was in the Sinn Féin Private Members' Bill from last week. That is not to say that it was not without merit. I thank the Minister of State, his staff and all the Members for delivering this Bill before the summer. Hopefully it will give consumers greater protection and greater certainty as to how they may pursue issues when they have them.
I welcome the passage of the Bill. It will go to the Attorney General for a review. I hope that commencement orders would take place as quickly as possible. The issue of whole-of-life policies is related to this Bill but is not within the Bill itself, where elderly people in particular would have taken out life assurance policies to ensure that their next of kin did not get caught with liabilities arising from a death. In many cases they have invested life savings into a policy. They would have been far better off putting the money into a savings account where it would be absolutely secure. Instead they have put it down a black hole and they are now at a point where if they do not continue to put money into this black hole they will not get the initial capital sum back. I know of one particular individual whose policy was for €100,000. He is now 93 and to date he has put in €120,000. He is required to put in the astronomical sum of approximately €7,000 per annum to retain the €100,000 policy. These are elements we need to look at. There is a need to ensure that these policies have a large endowment element. This issue is coming up too frequently for us to ignore it.
I welcome the passage of this legislation. Along with my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, whose Bill was passed last week, I hope that this will mark a change in the culture of financial institutions dealing with their customers. I also want to thank FLAC for drawing up the report that led to the drafting of Deputy Doherty's Bill. It has been immensely supportive and helpful.
I urge those people who were previously refused access because of the six-year rule to reapply, and the countless others who did not apply because of their awareness of this to resubmit their case. They need to use this legislation to allow them access to the services of the ombudsman. The Government should also play a role in promoting this. We have only done one part of the job. We now have to let people know through advertising, and encourage those who have lost hope to at least try this avenue which is now open to them. This fact should be propagated without fear of anyone.