Firms should pass savings to consumers

The chairperson of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), Dorothea Dowling, confirmed the public’s suspicion that insurance companies were not passing on all savings to consumers, despite lower insurance for motorists at present.

She put it rather more diplomatically to the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise and Small Business yesterday when she said that insurance companies were not allowing consumers to see the full benefit of the savings achieved.

The savings achieved by PIAB have been impressive, including the €1.4 million it saved claimants in legal fees, which is of itself quite substantial.

Since it was established in 2003, the PIAB awarded compensation totalling €3.7m in a system that has proven to be fast and efficient.

According to its chief executive, Patricia Byron, the PIAB was delivering compensation four times cheaper than under litigation which it was established to replace.

It has received 15,500 applications, 5,500 of which have been settled or are in the process of finalising papers, and the other 10,000 are being assessed.

As she pointed out to the committee, this was very significant considering that in 2004, just below 1 billion was paid out in compensation to personal injury victims, at a cost of €400m in litigation costs.

What PIAB has achieved must represent a significant saving to insurance companies and it is to be regretted if they are not all letting the consumer benefit to the fullest extent.

Savings in legal fees are significant too, in light of the stinging criticism by the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, of some members of the legal profession and how they focus on fees.

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