Sinn Féin Councillor and EU Council of the Regions member Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed preliminary findings by the European Commission that Insurance Ireland broke competition rules by denying insurance companies and new entrants access to its claims data sharing platform.
McGuinness had drafted the Sinn Féin submission to the European Commission that triggered the investigation. He said the preliminary findings revealed “cartel-like” behaviour at the heart of the industry that reduced competition, reduced consumer choice and increased insurance prices – effectively rigging the market in favour of the big insurance companies and against the interests of customers.
Speaking after the findings were published by the European Commission, McGuinness said:
“Today’s findings by the European Commission are a damning indictment of an insurance industry that has acted like a cartel against the interests of Irish consumers.
“This process began with dawn raids in July 2017 at the offices of a number of insurance companies, following a submission that I had prepared with colleagues in European Parliament that called for a wide-ranging investigation into potential breaches of competition law in the Irish market.
“After a two-year investigation that began in May 2019, the Commission has given its preliminary view that Insurance Ireland broke competition law by denying certain insurance companies and new entrants access to its Insurance Link platform – a critical claims data sharing system.
“By doing so, Insurance Ireland put new entrants at a distinct disadvantage in the Irish insurance market.
“This reduced competition and consumer choice, ensuring that consumers were denied lower and more competitive insurance prices.
“Insurance Ireland represents the biggest players in the Irish insurance market, with its members covering 90 percent of the motor insurance market.
“This practice has taken place over a decade in which motor insurance premiums have increased by 35 percent.
“This is a scandal, and comes less than a year after the Competition Authority found that some of the biggest players in the Irish insurance industry, including AIG, Allianz, AXA, Aviva and FBD engaged in price-signalling between 2015 and 2016.
“Behaving like a cartel, the industry has effectively rigged the system against the interests of new entrants and consumers.
“Sinn Féin has been unwavering in our criticism of the practices of the insurance industry, while others were too quick to regurgitate their spin.
“We need to reform this market to ensure that it serves customers fairly.
“Sinn Féin has progressed legislation to increase transparency, ban unfair pricing, and reduce premiums, and we will continue to hold the industry to account.
“Insurance Ireland should now respond to the Commission’s Statement of Objections without delay with this investigation brought to as swift a conclusion as possible.
“If this investigation ends by confirming the preliminary findings published today, the full weight of accountability should be brought to bear on Insurance Ireland.”
McGuinness is a member of the European Council of the Regions – the EU body for local and regional authorities. He worked with the Sinn Féin team in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019 and carried out extensive research and engagement regarding the Irish insurance market during that time. He drafted the 2016 submission to the European Commission requesting they launch an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices within the Irish insurance industry.