EU to investigate if Insurance Ireland running a cartel

Watchdog in ‘latter stages’ of inquiry into anti-competitive practices

Motor insurance premiums soared more than 70 per cent over three years before they peaked in 2016, a period when the industry was largely loss-making in the Republic. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Motor insurance premiums soared more than 70 per cent over three years before they peaked in 2016, a period when the industry was largely loss-making in the Republic. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

The European Commission opened a formal investigation into whether Insurance Ireland is operating a cartel by restricting access to a claims database, almost two years after it raided the body as part of an inquiry into a number of issues in the sector.

However, EU sources said the commission has dropped a separate investigation into concerns of anti-competitive practices in the market for insuring trucks and lorries in the Republic.

The premises of four insurance brokers offering commercial vehicle coverage – including Aon, Marsh, Campion Insurance in Dublin and Wexford-based Wright Insurance Brokers – had also been inspected as part of a series of raids by EU officials in July 2017. A spokeswoman for the commission declined to comment on this matter.

Upcoming increases

Meanwhile, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) here told The Irish Times that it was at the “latter stages” of its own investigation, initiated in September 2016, into whether motor insurers and brokers engaged in anti-competitive practices by openly signalling upcoming increases in motor insurance premiums.

Motor insurance premiums soared more than 70 per cent over three years before they peaked in 2016, a period when the industry was largely loss-making in the Republic. While the cost of vehicle coverage has since fallen back, employers’ liability and public liability coverage has been increasing in recent times.

The EU antitrust investigation into Insurance Ireland, the industry representative body, centres around whether it has restricted access to a database, called Insurance Link, which allows members of the organisation and large corporations that self-insure to access the claims history of individuals seeking to take out a new policy with a provider.

‘Data pool’

“We are investigating whether companies wishing to offer their services on the Irish motor insurance market may have been unfairly prevented from accessing a data pool managed by Insurance Ireland for member companies,” said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “This could potentially reduce Irish drivers’ choice of motor insurance policies at competitive prices.”

Insurance Ireland said it was co-operating fully with the commission in its enquiries and was “confident its practices are fully compliant with competition law”.