Motor insurance providers raided amid anti-cartel inquiry
Insurance Ireland also subjected to inspection as database access queried
The offices of Insurance Ireland were visited by compliance officers on Tuesday as part of a European Union investigation. Photograph: Collins
Motor insurance providers in Ireland were subject to a series of raids on Tuesday as part of an investigation into suspected anti-competitive practices, the European Commission said.
Agents from the European Competition Directorate were accompanied by counterparts from the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) during the operation.
In a statement, the commission said it had concerns “the companies involved may have engaged in anti-competitive practices in breach of EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position”.
An ongoing investigation by the CCPC into suspected breaches of competition law, which began last year, is understood not to be connected to Tuesday’s operation.
The commission said its “officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in motor insurance in the Republic of Ireland.”
“Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anti-competitive practices,” the commission said.
“The fact that the commission carries out such inspections does not mean the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
“The commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.”
The operation was carried out under Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It did not specify the number or identity of companies targeted.
There is no legal deadline to complete the investigation, the duration of which depends on a number of factors including the complexity of each case and the extent to which the companies concerned co-operate with investigators.
In a separate development it emerged on Tuesday the offices of Insurance Ireland were visited by compliance officers as part of a European Union investigation into access to two databases used by insurance providers in the Republic.
In a statement Insurance Ireland confirmed it was subject to an “unannounced inspection at its premises”.
There is a belief in the insurance industry that the investigation may be on foot of a complaint or series of complaints from new entrants to the market.
The first database at issue, called Insurance Link, allows members of Insurance Ireland and large corporations that insure themselves access to the claims history of individuals seeking to take out a new policy with a fresh provider.
Insurance Ireland is the representative body for the insurers in Ireland.
This database, access to which is governed by a protocol established by the Data Protection Commission in 2012, is run by a software company.
The second database, Integrated Information Data Service, is operated by the Department of Transport.
This database allows insurers to confirm the accuracy of penalty points and no-claims discount information provided by customers when seeking to take out motor policies.
The department said it had not been contacted by the EU competition directorate.
“Insurance Ireland understands that the inspection at its premises relates to databases concerning claims history information and drivers’ penalty points,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Insurance Ireland is co-operating fully with the European Commission and is confident its practices are fully compliant with competition law. Insurance Ireland is not in a position to comment further at this time.”