Public liability insurance premiums have increased by 15-20% on average over the past three years, new research by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has found.
Their market study also found that the reasons for the increases were not always clear and 70% of respondents said they did not think that the price rises were fair or justified.
The report also established that availability issues are primarily impacting certain sectors, such as community and sports groups.
A lack of independent public data as well as an absence of open access to claims history information may be acting as barriers to market entry and creating problems for policy makers trying to improve it, it also discovered.
“The further exit of insurers from the market could mean that availability will become an issue, for a potentially greater number of sectors in the future,” it concluded.
The CCPC analysis of competition in the market was started at the behest of the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in July of last year.
Heather Humphreys commissioned it at the time amid growing concern among firms, as well as sports, voluntary and community organisations about the problem in recent years.
As part of the exercise, the CCPC engaged with stakeholders.
The shortage of independent data on the sector meant the commission also had to carry out research among buyers of public liability insurance to increase the level of information available to it.
It also used its legal powers to get data from industry bodies.
“Our market study found that high percentage premium increases for public liability insurance are an issue across all sectors of the economy,” said CCPC chairperson Isolde Goggin.
“While this finding is neither new nor surprising, the CCPC has been able to quantify the extent of the issue.”
Other findings of the study included that customers should be supported to better engage with the market.
The CCPC recommends that the role and remit of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board should be enhanced to provide a more stable and lower cost claims environment.
It also suggests that the Central Bank publish National Claims Information Database information at insurer level and develop its data collection at subsector level.
Insurance Link, a claims-matching database administered by Insurance Ireland to help identify possible fraudulent claims, should be managed independently and access should be provided to all insurers, it recommends.
Supports should also be developed for buyers, the report advocates, by the state providing organisations with information on active providers and assisting them with profiling risk and reducing it.
The Central Bank could also review the approach used by insurers when increasing premiums, to ensure they comply with their obligations, the report recommends.
The CCPC says its recommendations are intended to complement and support the work of Government so that the market can work better for buyers of public liability insurance over time.
“As part of this process, the CCPC welcomes the Action Plan for Insurance Reform which outlines the actions to deliver on Programme for Government commitments up to 2022,” the study says.
“The CCPC supports the inclusion of a ‘whole of Government’ approach to oversee the implementation of the reform agenda and notes the recently established Sub Group of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment and the Insurance Industry Development Forum.”
Welcoming today’s report, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said that public liability insurance is too expensive. He said costs continue to rise and there are too few providers.
Mr Varadkar said that needs to change.
“This report highlights the poor functioning of the public liability insurance market. I’m pleased to see that the vast majority of the recommendations in the report have already been incorporated into our recently published Action Plan for Insurance Reform,” the Tánaiste said.
“These include greater information and transparency to encourage new entrants, more predictable awards, greater competition as well as more frequent use of a reformed PIAB to reduce legal costs and delays,” he added.
The Minister said that insurance reform is a major priority for him.
“I agree with the CCPC that, although the market is working for some, there are significant concerns and improvements must be made. I am determined to make insurance more available and less expensive for companies, community organisations and individuals,” he added.
The Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy, said the cost and availability of insurance is a major issue for consumers, business and community groups across the country.
“As Minister with responsibility for the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, I welcome the CCPC’s recommendation on the need for PIAB reform, an identified measure in the Action Plan for Insurance reform,” Mr Troy said.
“I have already commenced work on measures to enhance and expand its role, with the CCPC’s study an important input to this process. I am conscious of the urgency of the issue and will bring forward legislation next year to reform PIAB,” he added.