Deputy Declan Breathnach.
Louth and East Meath Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach has accused the insurance industry of operating a cartel which has led to a crisis for businesses, sporting clubs and community organisations as a result of the cost of employer and public liability insurance.
“Businesses with a significant public footfall such as play centres, pubs and nightclubs, hotels and leisure centres, are facing an insurance crisis, and there seems to be little practical action by government to do anything about it” he said.
“Only last Friday I attended Louth County Council’s Local Enterprise Awards – and it is great to see small business owners contributing to the local economy in such a meaningful way and providing employment in areas where jobs are hard to find. We as legislators need to assist small business owners in every way possible, and one of the largest expenses faced by them is rising insurance costs.
“There is a cartel operating in the industry which must be tackled. One business owner I spoke to in Louth said that because he was dealing with a local broker, that he was precluded from dealing with an alternative broker, or from dealing directly with a large insurer, as the answer given was that a quote had already been given for his company (to the broker). He was stuck not being able to shop around.
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“I have also heard that many insurance companies are using large call centres, and these centres service many of the largest players in the industry. The call centre staff can see what your previous quote offer was and will therefore quote based on that. It is an obvious cartel.
“Another businessman told me that because he acted responsibly in filling out an accident report form with his insurance company after a minor workplace accident involving a staff member, his premium went up by €2,000 notwithstanding the fact that the staff member did not claim against his company.
“The other problem of course is the ridiculously high personal injury awards in our Courts system. It is now nine months since the completion of the final report of the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC). The PIC confirmed that the level of damages for soft-tissue (whiplash) injuries in Ireland runs at a multiple of 4.4 times to that of our nearest neighbours England and Wales. The Minister confirmed in this debate that the promised establishment of a Judicial Council which would compile guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury will happen next month.
“Similarly, we are over two years on from the recommendation to establish a dedicated insurance fraud unit within An Garda Síochána and again there has been no movement on this. Fraudulent and exaggerated claims are a significant problem in my view and this problem needs to be tackled. We also urgently need to establish a National Claims Information Database – this has yet to be done, which was promised.
“The government needs to understand that failure to tackle the insurance crisis facing certain sectors is costing jobs. Fianna Fáil has offered full parliamentary support to the Government to tackle high insurance costs. It is well past time they started to deliver in a meaningful way.”