Digital Desk Staff
Motorists could be in line for cheaper premiums and refunds if the insurance industry is found to have blocked new players from entering the market.
It comes as the European Commission found Insurance Ireland breached EU antitrust rules, effectively restricting competition in the industry.
As the Irish Examiner reports, a preliminary ruling found Insurance Ireland “arbitrarily delayed or de facto denied access” to companies that wanted access to its data sharing system, Insurance Link.
“This prevented competitive entry of new players and thus reduced Irish drivers' choice of motor insurance policies at competitive prices,” EU commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, adding that “motor insurance is a significant cost in the budget of every family and business."
Consumer advocate Dermott Jewell said the finding is “very significant and serious”.
He said calls for lower premiums for motorists will not be enough, and that refunds may be on the table if the investigation’s findings are upheld.
Mr Jewell, policy and council advisor at the independent non-profit Consumers' Association of Ireland, said the findings by the Commission deserve urgent attention from the Government, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), and the Central Bank.
He pointed out that motor insurance is legally required and when choosing a policy, affordability and competitive choice are key criteria for the consumer.
“The commission raises very significant and serious questions that must be fully addressed, in detail, by Insurance Ireland,” Mr Jewell said.
“The allegation that any kind of barrier to entry, into this specific area of insurance, demands immediate and urgent Government intervention and investigation by the CCPC and the Central Bank,” he added.
Insurance Ireland covers more than 90 per cent of the Irish car insurance market. Its members include AIG, Aviva, Axa, FBD, RSA, and Zurich.
It said it notes the Commission’s statement but that it is important to emphasise it is a preliminary view and not its final decision.
“Over the last four years, Insurance Ireland has cooperated with the investigation of the European Commission, and we will continue to do so through this stage of the process,” it said in a statement.
“We will now assess the points set out by the European Commission, and we are confident that we can allay the European Commission’s perceived concerns.”