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Dáil told insurance profits have jumped more than 1000%, but government says it's being 'as aggressive as it can be'

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said customers are being ‘fleeced’ by insurance providers.

Image: Shutterstock/LightField Studios

THE SKYROCKETING PROFITS of the insurance industry have been raised in the Dáil today.

Citing figures from a report in The Irish Independent today, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said profits have jumped by a staggering 1300%.

The latest figures reveal that 17 general insurers in the market made combined operating profits of €227 million in 2017, up from €16 million in 2016, according to Insurance Ireland.

Doherty said customers are being “fleeced” by insurance companies, with many SMEs being put out of business as a result. 

“This industry is fleecing its customers,” he told Minister Richard Bruton, who took Leaders’ Questions today. 

The Sinn Féin deputy called on the government to ensure that any future reforms of the industry will result in a decrease in premiums.

“Stop the kid glove approach and take these companies on,” said Doherty. 

Bruton said a lot has been done to tighten regulations but added:

We cannot determine premiums.

‘I fully sympathise’ 

“While I fully sympathise, the government cannot take control of premium setting, that is a constraint,” he admitted. 

He said there is a collective desire in the Dáil for the issues to get resolved, but the government “has been as aggressive as it can be”. 

The issue is due to be discussed further today in an Oireachtas committee where junior minister Michael D’Arcy, who is tasked with implementing the report by the working group on insurance, will outline that there is “no single policy or legislative silver bullet to immediately stem or reverse premium price rises”. 

The minister will tell committee members today that he looks forward to the finalisation of the Central Bank’s work around potentially extending the scope of the national claims information database (NCID) to include employer and public liability insurance.

“At this point I think it should do,” D’Arcy outlines in his opening statement, adding that he plans to look at how the government can speed up the work related to the development of a functioning fraud database.

Personal injury damages

Addressing the issue of award levels, he said bringing the levels of personal injury damages awarded in this country more in line with those awarded in other jurisdictions “is the single most essential challenge which must be overcome if there is to be a sustainable reduction in insurance costs”. 

He added that he wants that Judicial Council Bill to be enacted as soon as possible.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform continues to call for the establishment of a dedicated Garda Insurance Fraud unit.

D’Arcy said that while the working group’s report explored the potential of such a unit, no commitment was given on this matter.

“It was made clear that it was always subject to further examination, and that any decision in relation to this matter was always going to be for the Garda Commissioner. 

“Since my last appearance before you last year, the Garda Commissioner has made the decision for operational reasons that a divisional focus is preferable to the establishment of a centralised insurance investigation unit,” D’Arcy will tell the committee.

It is the intention of the Commissioner that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) guide divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud, members will be told today. 

“I believe it is important to accept the expert view of the Garda Commissioner in this regard and I am confident that this marks a key turning point in how insurance fraud will be investigated by An Garda Síochana in the future,” said D’Arcy.

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