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Public liability costs a ‘systemic threat’ to existence of businesses
Minister Heather Humphreys with Conor O’Brien and Dermot Divilly of PIAB

16 Aug 2019 / personal injury Print

Public liability costs a ‘systemic threat’

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is to undertake a study into the public liability insurance market.

Business minister Heather Humphreys asked for the probe using her powers under section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014.

Minister Humphreys asked that the study should examine “how that market operates, how competition works in that market and whether any practice or method of competition affects the pricing levels of public liability insurance within that market”.

Transparency

The Minister added: “The purpose of conducting this study is to bring greater transparency to the market by shining a light on the practices of insurance firms and intermediaries including brokers.”

She said that insurance for businesses, and its impact on their ability to operate, is a growing concern. In particular, the issue of increases in public liability premiums is a potential systemic threat to the very existence of many businesses.

She also noted that concerns have been expressed directly to her on the roles of insurance firms and intermediaries (including brokers) in very sharply increasing levels of public liability insurance premiums.

Ease pressure on business

She concluded: “The study forms part of the Government-wide response to tackling the cost of insurance. There is no silver-bullet solution to this issue but we are committed to ensuring that we are using every lever available to us to ease the pressure on businesses and consumers.” 

Under section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation has the power to request the CCPC to “carry out a study or analysis of:

  • any issue relating to consumer protection and welfare,
  • any practice or method of competition affecting the supply and distribution of goods or the provision of services, or,
  • any other matter relating to competition.

When performing its functions under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, the CCPC can gather information in a number of different ways. For example, it may:

  • invite individuals to attend for interview by CCPC staff,
  • request individuals to provide documents or records to the CCPC,
  • issue requests for information to individuals and undertakings,
  • conduct market surveys, and collect and compile market information,
  • issue questionnaires to relevant parties, and
  • commission expert analysis.

The Government has introduced a number of measures to tackle the costs imposed by insurance companies on clients.

In 2016 the Minister for Finance established a special Working Group to examine the issue. The Cost of Insurance Working Group has undertaken a review of the factors which are influencing the increased cost of insurance.

Three pieces of legislation on insurance reform have been enacted in the last year –the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018, the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018, and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019. 

The passage of the landmark Judicial Council Act 2019 through the Oireachtas in July provides for the establishment of a personal injuries guidelines committee whose function will be to develop the relevant personal injury guidelines for appropriate general damages.

Also, a new insurance claim fraud category on the Garda PULSE system went live on 2 November 2018. 

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