Government urged to ‘put manners’ on insurers

The Taoiseach has been urged to “put manners” on insurance companies with new laws to combat crippling premiums. Sinn Féin has called on Leo Varadkar to introduce major reforms on how insurance firms do business.

It comes as the European Commission opens a formal anti-trust investigation into Insurance Ireland. The Commission is formally investigating whether Insurance Ireland is reducing drivers’ choice of insurance policies by preventing companies from being included in a pool of firms offering cover.

Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald told the Dáil that the investigation will be welcomed by motorists across the State who are being “crippled” by the increased cost of insurance.

However, she said insurance is not purely a problem for motorists and rising costs are impacting businesses, farmers and those organising community festivals across the country.

It beggars belief that it has taken the EU Commission to step in here when it is clear that insurers have been ripping off policyholders for years and the Government has consistently refused to act on serious issues that have been raised,” said Ms McDonald.

“We need to see a commitment to bring down prices and changes to rewards brought in and crucially we need new legislation to put manners on the insurance industry.”

Mr Varadkar said tackling the issue of rising insurance costs is a priority for his Government.

“We have seen some progress. Motor insurance, for example, is down about 20% from its peak in 2016, it needs to now fall further,” said Mr Varadkar, adding that health insurance costs have also stabilised.

He said the next step will be the passing of the Judicial Council Bill before the summer break, which will provide guidelines around levels of compensation.

But he warned: “It may be a year or two after the law is enacted before you see those results in premiums moderating or falling.”

Separately, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan hit out at the Government’s record on housing, claiming the Irish people have completely lost trust in them as a result.

Mr Ryan told the Dáil: “Political capital is an uncertain currency, but we all know when it disappears, and it is evaporating for the Government on the housing issue. It is because the Government is betting everything on a market where a market is unreliable.”

Mr Ryan also accused the Government of “privatising everything”.

But Mr Varadkar said the Government is taking a practical, not an ideological, view and stressed that the private sector is needed to help solve the housing crisis.

“We need social housing and private housing. We need houses for people on the housing list and houses for people who want to buy. The vast majority of people in Ireland still want to own their homes, which is a good thing and the reason why we also need private developers,” Mr Varadkar said.

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