The European Commission has said new players may enter the car insurance market here as a result of an agreement struck today with Insurance Ireland.

Under the deal, Insurance Ireland - which represents around 90% of the market here - has committed to open up its database which contains important information for companies looking to offer car insurance here.

The European Commission has said the database, called Insurance Link, will now be accessed in a fair and transparent manner.

It said it will restore the level playing field and ease the entry of new players and as a result, consumers may benefit from a larger choice of suppliers

EU competition enforcers today accepted from Insurance Ireland's offer to open up its data sharing platform to non-members and apply fair criteria to access it aimed at averting a possible hefty fine.

Last year, the European Commission charged the industry body, which covers over 90% of the car insurance market here, with restricting certain insurers and their agents' access to its data system called Insurance Link.

Earlier this year, Insurance Ireland submitted its concessions to the EU competition watchdog, which subsequently sought feedback from rivals and users.

"The Commission found that Insurance Ireland's final commitments will ensure market participants' access to the Insurance Link platform, and decided to make them legally binding on Insurance Ireland," the EU executive said in a statement.

The concessions include allowing non-members to access Insurance Ireland's information exchange system, adopting fair and non-discriminatory access criteria for all applicants from Ireland and other EU countries and also setting up a fair and non-discriminatory fee model.

Insurance Ireland said today that it welcomed the conclusion of the European Commission investigation, without a finding of infringement by Insurance Ireland.

It said that in light of concerns raised during the investigation, Insurance Ireland had offered a set of commitments to allay the concerns.

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"The offer of the commitments is not an acknowledgement that Insurance Ireland has infringed competition law and Insurance Ireland notes that the European Commission has not found that Insurance Ireland has infringed competition law," the insurance industry body said.

"The commitments provide for clear criteria and procedures on access to the InsuranceLink database. In addition, the commitments provide for clear criteria and procedures for applications for membership of Insurance Ireland," it added.

"We have cooperated fully and worked closely with the European Commission over the course of its investigation to allay concerns raised in relation to InsuranceLink, and we are pleased that the Commission has decided to accept the commitments and conclude its investigation," Insurance Ireland's chief executive Moyagh Murdock said.

European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said that Insurance Ireland has offered commitments which will ensure access to its data sharing system on a fair, transparent, objective and non-discriminatory basis.

Margrethe Vestager

"The commitments will restore the level playing field in the Irish motor insurance market and ease the entry of new players. As a result, consumers may benefit from a larger choice of suppliers," Margrethe Vestager said.

"This is a good result since today's economy increasingly relies on data sharing and access to data has become key in many markets," she added.

Alliance for Insurance Reform voices concerns over today's deal

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But Peter Boland of the Alliance for Insurance Reform said the alliance had serious concerns with today's "deal" to allow Insurance Ireland retain "effective ownership" of a claims database.

Mr Boland said this decision comes despite concerns being raised last year and an investigation consequencetly carried out by the European Commission into the insurance industry.

No sanctions were issued by the Commission.

Mr Boland also said if Insurance Ireland operates the database under the terms agreed - and it is rigidly supervised and done in good faith - he believes competition will increase in the market and ultimately lead to a reduction in insurance prices generally.

Mr Boland said the database allows anyone who has access to track the behaviour of individuals in terms of making claims.

"It allows them to determine the risks - it is a very valuable tool."

He said the Department of Finance have acknowledged competition is an issue and they set up an office for competition.

Mr Boland also said the conditions were not there two years ago to make the markets attractive for new underwriters but that has changed with reforms that have been pushed through."

He said the Department of Finance and Insurance Competition Offiice have a "golden opportunity" to go out to the international market and say to underwriters who are not operating here, "things have changed dramtically in Ireland."

Ireland now offers a viable insurance market with transparency, stability and consistency, he added.