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GE2020 – What are the parties saying on insurance?

We sent the following letter to all the political parties:

In advance of the General Election, the Alliance for Insurance Reform wishes to update our members and the public regarding your party’s support for the four key reforms we are seeking, namely:

  1. Reduce unfair general damages to reflect international norms and the principles already established by the higher courts – including that ‘minor injuries attract modest damages’
  2. Review and re-balance the “common duty of care” to require occupiers to take a duty of care that is reasonable, practical and proportionate
  3. Support a fully-resourced Garda Insurance Fraud Unit
  4. Insist on insurers committing to a schedule of forecast reductions for planned reforms

Can you please confirm whether you support each of these reforms and whether they will be included in your party’s manifesto for General Election 2020?

We will be publishing your response and that of the other parties in order to update our members and the public.

The following are their responses, both direct and indirect:

 

Aontú says:

Support the Alliance for Insurance Reform in seeking to prevent exaggerated and misleading claims and believes these should be pursued through a Garda Insurance Fraud Unit.

Aontú also seeks consistency in the calculation of awards at realistic level and also transparency on how premiums are calculated and claims are settled.

 

Fianna Fáil say they will:

Tackle costs

· Fully establish the Judicial Council to provide guidance on personal injury claims.

· Regulate claims management companies and claims harvesters.

· Review the balance of “Duty of Care” in legislation.

· Strengthen the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations of 2002.

· Reform the PIAB by making it an offence to not fully co-operate with it.

Get tough on insurance fraud

· Establish a publicly funded Garda Fraud Unit.

· Ensure that fraudulent claims are forwarded to the DPP.

· Increase the penalties for fraudulent claims.

· Publish insurance fraud data.

· Make fraudulent claimants pay the legal expenses for defendants.

· Make it an offence to knowingly provide false information to PIAB.

Increase Transparency, tackle anticompetitive behaviour and foster competition

· Give the Competition regulator (the CCPC) effective enforcement powers to punish and deter anti-competitive conduct.

· Establish a Public Liability and Employer Liability price index.

· Establish a National Claims Information Database for employer liability and public liability to track the level of claims.

· Establish a databank within the Central Bank for new entrants.

· Prioritise establishing a fully functioning European wide single insurance market.

· Work to remove dual pricing from the market.

Full Manifesto HERE

 

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Fine Gael say they will:

· Extend the transparency of the claims database to cover public/ employer liability insurance

· Create, from existing resources, an office within Government tasked with encouraging the entry of international insurers into the Irish market

· Make perjury a statutory offence and easier to prosecute, to ensure that false or misleading evidence in insurance cases is discouraged

· Introduce a new deterrent to prevent individuals with a history of bringing fraudulent claims from bringing new claims without the prior approval of the High Court, to deal with serial claimants.

· Consider changes to the Occupiers Liability Act and the Civil Liability Act, to strengthen waivers and notices to increase protections for consumers, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups.

· We will demand from the insurance industry that they will commit to reductions as reforms are enacted.

· If these measures do not result in significant reductions, Fine Gael will then consider bringing forward a new constitutional amendment to allow the Oireachtas to set down guidelines on premiums.

 

Full Manifesto HERE

 


The Green Party say they will:

Provide affordable insurance options to arts and culture groups by introducing a State backed indemnity scheme.

Full Manifesto HERE

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Labour say they will:

  • Promote Pooled Group Insurance schemes which will ensure significantly cheaper premiums for businesses, voluntary and community groups who could act together to negotiate lower premiums. The Department of Enterprise will be tasked with supporting and facilitating sectors such as childcare operators or tourism businesses who wish to pool together to seek insurance.
  • Labour will review the cost of insurance and the profitability of insurance companies, and will change incentives and disincentives for insurance companies to promote more competitive insurance rates. Labour will use the Irish Public Bodies (IPB) Insurance company, owned by local authorities and other public agencies, to offer affordable insurance to community organisations, markets and festivals.
  • Labour will extend State Claims Agency cover to Section 38 and 39 bodies, to ensure that health and social care service providers who are mostly or fully funded by the HSE have their public liability insurance costs met by the State Claims Agency. This will significantly reduce their insurance premiums and free up more resources for frontline healthcare and disability services.
  • Labour will introduce a National Claims information database to provide transparency on claim costs and awards for injuries. We will also ensure that the Personal Injuries Commission engage in stronger scrutiny of claims and reduce the claims period for minor soft injury tissue injuries.
  • Labour will establish an independent Insurance Fraud Unit to be funded by insurance companies who would be obliged to automatically refer exaggerated and misleading claims to the Gardaí.
  • Labour will require lawyers to comply with the duties of candour, to ensure they do not to seek to win litigation by any improper means. We will also seek stronger enforcement of legislation surrounding advertising of “no win, no fee” legal services.
  • We will also promote a Pooled Group Insurance scheme for hackney drivers, to lower their premiums.

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A chara,

Sinn Féin welcome the opportunity to outline our position on the four key reforms mentioned by the Alliance for Insurance Reform. We are also keen to stress that our plan to reform the insurance sector is not confined to these four themes; and we will outline a number of these reforms following our response to the questions asked.

  1. Reduce unfair general damages to reflect international norms and the principles already established by the higher courts – including that ‘minor injuries attract modest damages’

Sinn Féin want to ensure certainty and consistency in the cost of claims and the level of personal injury awards for general damages. We facilitated the passage of the Judicial Council Act, which was signed into law in July 2019. We have called for the speedy establishment of the Judicial Council and would fully fund it as it establishes guidelines for awards of damages in personal injury cases.

Sinn Féin is also committed to strengthening the role of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, to ensure that a much greater proportion of cases are processed through PIAB rather than the courts, where extra costs are mostly swallowed up by litigation fees.

Sinn Féin recognises that certainty and consistency in the level of personal injury awards is essential for small businesses, the community sector and childcare providers as they seek affordable public liability insurance cover.

  1. Review and re-balance the “common duty of care” to require occupiers to take a duty of care that is reasonable, practical and proportionate

Sinn Féin has serious concerns that the ‘common duty of care’ is not fairly balanced, and is contributing towards the serious difficulties being felt by small businesses and community groups across the State. A number of well-documented cases have highlighted this issue. Sinn Féin would immediately establish a review of the ‘common duty of care’, seeking input from a range of specialists and voices, to ensure that there is a fair and proportionate balance between the responsibilities of individuals and the responsibilities of small businesses and community groups. We would legislate on foot of any recommendations that result from this review.

  1. Support a fully-resourced Garda Insurance Fraud Unit

Sinn Féin would establish a stand-alone and Garda Insurance Fraud Unit made up of a dedicated team of detectives, garda staff and financial investigators. This unit would be initially funded with reserves built up by the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) and supplemented with additional public resources.

The Garda Insurance Fraud Unit would work to combat insurance fraud if and when it happens, creating a hostile environment for organised criminality and ensuring full cooperation and compliance from the insurance industry.

  1. Insist on insurers committing to a schedule of forecast reductions for planned reforms

Sinn Féin will continue to hold the insurance industry to account. We held the insurance industry to account on their pricing practices and the lack of transparency that characterises the industry.

We will demand a guarantee from the industry that reforms are met with cost reductions. Sinn Féin would insist on a verifiable schedule of reduction from the insurance industry in line with the reforms we would implement.

In addition to this, it is important to state that Sinn Féin have called for and our committed to further reforms in the insurance market; ensuring fair pricing by the insurance industry, and increasing protections for consumers in their insurance contracts, including businesses. In December we called for the establishment of a Ministerial Task Force, led by the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance, and including Ministers with responsibility for the most affected sectors. At present the insurance crisis is not even a priority at the Cabinet table.

Two reforms we would immediately progress are:

  1. Banning Dual Pricing: Insurance companies are using big data and complex algorithms to target loyal customers and vulnerable groups with artificially high premiums on renewal. This has seen premiums rise for consumers from one year to the next despite having never made a claim.

Dual Pricing has been made illegal in 17 American states and is under investigation in Britain. Irish consumers deserve no less. In 2019 Sinn Féin won the agreement of the Central Bank to investigate dual pricing by the insurance industry, but that isn’t enough.

Sinn Fein have drafted legislation introduce legislation to ban unfair pricing in the insurance market to ensure that consumers are not hit with higher premiums each year. We will force companies to show how they set their prices to the Central Bank and clamp down on those who price unfairly.

  1. Enforce Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Act: In 2019 our Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill became law. This legislation increases transparency and shifts the balance of power away from insurance companies and in favour of consumers and small businesses in their insurance contracts. It has been described as the most radical change in insurance contract law in centuries and a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform. It is the only legislation that has been passed in 2016 that increases protections for policyholders.

It will require companies to inform policyholders of the past 5 years of premiums paid by customers and claims paid out by the insurer, increasing transparency and strengthening the hand of consumers. It will ensure that contracts are always interpreted in favour of the consumer. Companies will no longer be able to settle third-party claims without the policyholder knowing. Instead they will have to inform customers and small businesses of any claim made against their policy, allowing them to submit their own evidence and informing them of the cost of any claim against their policy that has been settled. The legislation would also make it harder for an insurer to wriggle out of paying valid claims on grounds that have nothing to do with the accident or loss incurred by the policyholder.

Is mise,

Pearse Doherty

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson

 

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The Social Democrats say:

  • We need a dedicated Garda Insurance Fraud unit to bring prosecutions against those who exaggerate or make outright false claims.
  • The Social Democrats want to see a new Consumer Affairs Committee established, whose sole focus is on outcomes for consumers.
  • We would end discrimination against drivers of older cars and new or returning entrants to the insurance market improve non-litigation methods for claims settlement to reduce legal costs, and make it easier to switch insurers and thereby drive competition.
  • We would also take measures to tackle insurance fraud and recruit extra Gardaí to better enforce road traffic law.
  • The Social Democrats believe that the Book of Quantum should be recalibrated so that court awards are benchmarked against international evidence instead of simply Irish historical awards. This should help to significantly lower awards for minor injuries, help lower legal costs, create less of an incentive for fraudulent claims, bring Ireland into line with payouts in other countries, and, with better regulation, reduce premiums.
  • The Social Democrats would take immediate action by expanding the remit of the state owned Irish Public Bodies insurance scheme to ensure that public festivals, community groups and volunteer led sports teams can get cover immediately,
  • We believe that in the longer term the State can do more to promote the concept of co-operative or group insurance.
  • We would seriously investigate the possibility of introducing a New Zealand style public liability insurance scheme in an Irish context.

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Thank you for your email. Solidarity supports the demands outlined in your letter and we furthermore support the concept of publicly run not for profit insurance companies as exists in other jurisdictions particularly in relation to motor insurance.

 On behalf of Solidarity I want to wish the Alliance for Insurance Reform every success in its lobbying campaign during this election.

 Kind regards

 Michael O’Brien, Press Officer

Solidarity

 

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People Before Profit say they will:

Propose a publicly owned insurance company to cut costs.