Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Finance
62. To ask the Minister for Finance if his Department continues to monitor developments in the insurance industry, with particular reference to the need to provide cover for all types of insurance at viable rates particularly small and medium sized businesses in the aftermath of Covid-19; the status of the development of a new insurance reform action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17641/21]
The Government has prioritised the reform of the insurance sector in order to improve the cost and availability of this key financial service, including for businesses. The Action Plan for Insurance Reform sets out 66 actions in this regard across several policy areas, including my Department, with 95% due to be completed by the end of 2021. At its most recent meeting, the Cabinet Sub-Group on Insurance Reform, which oversees the implementation of the Action Plan, reflected upon the considerable progress made in the first three months of this year. Achievements include:
- The creation of an Office to Promote Competition in the Insurance Market within the Department of Finance.
- The adoption of new Personal Injuries Guidelines by the Judicial Council.
- The launch of a public consultation on proposals to reform the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
Priorities for the next three months include: strengthening the laws on perjury, expanding the National Claims Information Database so that it publishes its first report on employer and public liability insurance, and examining the Central Bank’s final report on differential pricing so that we can respond accordingly.
A key action of the Government’s insurance reform agenda is the establishment of The Office to Promote Competition in the Insurance Marketwithin my Department, chaired by Minister of State Fleming. Its role is twofold: to assist in the reduction of insurance costs and the increase of the availability of cover, including for businesses, by promoting competition in the Irish insurance market. It will employ a strategic approach to the promotion of insurance competition, including encouraging transparency and championing the provision of information in relation to the insurance market and available products. Since its establishment, the Office has held a number of meetings with several important stakeholders, including representatives of the insurance industry and business groups as well as representatives of civic society to discuss consumer empowerment, and increasing provision of relevant information. It has also had useful discussions with other state regulators and the Central Bank on promoting competition issues.
The Action Plan also prioritises working to protect customers during and after the COVID-19 crisis. In our ongoing engagement with the insurance industry, Minister of State Fleming and I have repeatedly raised this issue and emphasised the importance of treating customers honestly, fairly and professionally. This has resulted in a number of insurers announcing forbearance measures and motor insurance rebates for customers. The industry’s response to the pandemic will remain a feature of our future engagement, including at the upcoming meetings between Minister of State Fleming and insurers.
I can assure the Deputy that we will continue to engage extensively on this matter and monitor developments in the sector as the Government drives forward the insurance reform agenda. Minister of State Fleming and I look forward to continue working with colleagues and stakeholders to implement further aspects of the Action Plan, with a view to improve both the cost and availability of insurance for all consumers, businesses and community groups.