The Government has published a new reform plan aimed at bringing down the cost of insurance.
At a press conference to launch it today, Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar said insurance costs in Ireland are too high for consumers, businesses and community organisations.
"As we reopen our economy once more, businesses and families will face financial pressures, including that of insurance, and it our intention to alleviate that over the coming period."
The main pledges in the plan include:
- Replacing the Book of Quantum with new guidelines on the appropriate level of personal injury awards
- Enhancing the role of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board
- Examining the duty of care to strengthen waivers and notices to increase protections for consumers, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups.
- Further strengthening transparency through the expansion of the National Claims Information Database
- Monitoring whether personal injury award levels need to be capped
- Reducing insurance fraud including placing perjury on a statutory footing, thus making the offence easier to prosecute
The enforcement powers of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) will also be strengthened, dual pricing will be examined and an office will be set up within Government to encourage greater insurance market competition.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said: "The Perjury and Related Offences Bill will introduce penalties for perjury related offences and there will be enhanced cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the insurance industry to combat insurance fraud."
Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of Insurance Ireland said: "Our members have been seeking reform for many years, including the urgent need to tackle the high cost of claims in Ireland.
"The commitment to establish a Cabinet Sub-Committee to deal urgently with insurance reform is very welcome and we look forward to working with everyone involved to expedite the changes required in this action plan."
The Irish Hotels Federation's chief executive Tim Fenn welcomed the plan and said: "Exaggerated and misleading insurance claims have been the scourge of many businesses, and hotels in particular.
"For far too long such claims have driven up costs and impacted competitiveness, which our sector can no longer afford."
Graham Byrne, chairman of the Small Firms Association said: "This report marks a big step forward in reforming our insurance sector.
"It is certainly welcomed but can only be celebrated as a partial victory, as the actions will take time to set up and implement."
The Director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, Peter Boland, welcomed the plan, but said its delivery is going to be a key issue.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr Boland said voluntary and community groups have been "absolutely hammered by insurance increases" in the past four years, as have SMEs.
"We can't afford to wait, particularly in the context of Covid-19 and the planned recovery," he said.
"If we're expecting SMEs to be part of that recovery, then this must be done very, very quickly."
I know cost of insurance is a big problem. Government published a plan today to bring costs down. Here are the main points?? pic.twitter.com/gUFE9g4KoS— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) December 8, 2020
Opposition parties have criticised the plan, saying it lacks urgency.
Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said most commitments were a rehash of promises made over the previous four years.
"There was an Oireachtas Committee report, there were two Cost of Working Group reports, 11 progress reports and what we have here is another 14 reports," Mr Doherty said.
He welcomed some elements of the plan, but said dual pricing should have been banned.
Labour said the report was long on aspiration but short on concrete actions.
The party's finance spokesperson Ged Nash said he welcomed long-promised reforms on perjury and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
However, he said there was an absence of plans for innovative pooled schemes to help make insurance more affordable for childcare providers and voluntary bodies.
Mr Nash also called for dual pricing to be banned, describing it as "anti-competitive".
"We needed to urgently move beyond plans and words, to actions and implementation," he said.
"Yet the language contained within the plan, with for example, the pledge to 'monitor whether personal injury award levels need to be capped' seems to me to be a case of kicking a well kicked can even further down the road."
Additional reporting by Sandra Hurley