A number of insurers here have agreed to discount premiums or give refunds to motor customers in recognition of an expected reduction in the volume of claims during the Covid-19 emergency.

It follows pressure from the Minister for Finance, the public, businesses and insurance re-sellers for action on the matter.

Insurance Ireland said the insurers recognise that reductions in the amount of road use means the level of claims being submitted will be lower.

"We are now six weeks into the Covid-19 restrictions on movement and it is clear that road usage levels have fallen significantly," said Moyagh Murdock, CEO of Insurance Ireland.

"While the duration of these restrictions is still uncertain and it is still too early to fully assess the financial impact on the motor insurance sector, but recognising the unique challenges in the Irish market, insurers have agreed to address the issue by signing up to a set of core principles."

The industry body said because each insurer has a different mix of customers and different claims experience, they will each assess the impact on their customers and then pass on "appropriate financial supports" directly to customers.

Insurance Ireland said the support applied by each company will reflect their individual claims experience to date and given the different pricing models and customer profiles of each insurer, the precise amounts will vary.

The situation will be further reviewed if restrictions due to Covid-19 are extended through the summer and this results in sustained lower road usage and claims.

Most of the leading motor insurers including Allianz, AXA, FBD, RSA and Zurich have signed up to the principles, Insurance Ireland said.

However, Aviva and Liberty are not listed as participants at the moment.

"Every time we make a decision at Liberty, our guiding principle is to do the right thing, and to put our customers and employees first," Liberty said in a statement.

"We are currently exploring meaningful ways of supporting our customers with a rebate."

Aviva said it had offered the option on a case by case basis to defer motor renewal premiums for a period.

"We will not charge our customers for cancelled or missed direct debit payments and motor customers have the option to suspend their insurance cover for a period if they are not using their cars," it said in a statement.

"We believe we can provide more value for our motor customers through a competitive quote at renewal."

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe acknowledged the response from some insurance companies, and called on each insurer to outline the scale of likely premium refunds.

"This is an important step by the sector and I also appreciate that these insurers will keep the matter under review to see how best they can serve the needs of their customers," the minister said.

"Obviously it is for each insurer to look at its own situation and customer base, but I stress the importance for them to take a longer-term perspective and be generous with their customers at this time reflecting the recent profitability of the motor insurance market."

Welcoming the move, Brokers Ireland said there is a compelling logic, given that there is a much reduced likelihood of claims.

Cathie Shannon, Director of General Insurance Services, said insurance premiums are based on the level of risk posed and the anticipated level of claims, with the cost of claims being the most significant cost incurred by motor insurers.

"Since the Covid-19 restrictions we are told that traffic volumes have decreased by two-thirds. There is, therefore, a deeply compelling logic for such measures by insurance companies," she said.