Thursday, 29 April 2021
Department of Finance
33. To ask the Minister for Finance the way in which he plans to tackle rising insurance costs for small businesses which are having difficulty sourcing insurance and when sourced are being quoted premiums at double the previous cost and higher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22462/21]
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. In this regard the Action Plan for Insurance Reform sets out 66 actions across several policy areas, including my Department, with 95% due to be completed by the end of 2021. At its most recent quarterly meeting in March, 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 to date include:
- The creation of an Office to Promote Competition in the Insurance Market within the Department of Finance, which has been engaging extensively with stakeholders since its inception;
- The publication of new Personal Injuries Guidelines by the Judicial Council, which came into force on 24 April, a number of months ahead of schedule;
- The launch of a public consultation on proposals to reform the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
It is worth noting that the new Personal Injuries Guidelines significantly reduce award levels for many categories of common injury, particularly those of soft tissue, and provide further details on how these should be assessed. These also provide guidance in relation to injuries previously not included in the Book of Quantum and will be used by both the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and judiciary. Therefore, in addition to the lower awards and legal fees, the new Guidelines should provide more certainty to claimants and insurers, and as such reinforce the benefits of using the PIAB for claims settlement. This in turn should further reduce the costs of claims, particularly legal fees. A reduction of the cost of claims should assist in lowering the cost of premiums, and Minister of State Fleming met with insurers earlier this month to press them on this issue. This was a fruitful series of engagements, with many insurers indicating that they would begin lowering premiums this year in response to the new Guidelines. I welcome this commitment and believe that consumers, small businesses and other groups should start to see the benefit of this as soon as possible.
In conclusion, 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.