Cé gur tugadh úinéirí na dtithe tábhairne FBD os comhair na cúirte agus cé go raibh bua acu sa chúirt, tá comhlachtaí amuigh ansin le polasaithe árachais a chosnaíonn iad in éadan Covid-19 agus níl na comhlachtaí árachais ag cloí leis na polasaithe sin. Caithfidh Banc Ceannais na hÉireann gníomhú air seo. In May last year, four pubs launched a High Court action against FBD Insurance. These businesses had nowhere left to turn so they decided to fight their corner in the courts. The case revolved around the issue of business interruption insurance and whether they were covered as a result of the Government's closure in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Soon after the Government's order to close, I received hundreds of insurance policies from those who have been forced to close. It became clear to me that many of them had cover, while others had a very strong case. Despite this, insurance companies were refusing to accept indemnity.
I raised the specific case of FBD policy on the floor of the Dáil in March last year and again in April, and I have raised the issue many times since. As we know, the same is happening with insurance firms in Britain, but the regulator there, the Financial Conduct Authority, FCA, took action. It reached out to businesses and gathered a sample of 21 different types of insurance policy, which form part of the FCA's court action. This ensured a binding result for as many businesses as possible. The FCA did this in the public interest and to enhance its consumer protection mandate. Last month, it won its case. The decision is legally binding on eight insurers in Britain and thousands of businesses will receive payouts, a financial lifeline for so many of them that are struggling at this time.
I have previously called on the Central Bank of Ireland to intervene in a similar manner, including in March and April last year. I have called on the Government to support that call. The Central Bank and the Government took no action at that time and that is why the four pubs were forced to defend themselves in the courts. Last week, thankfully, the High Court ruled in their favour and against FBD and judged that these businesses were covered for business interruption as a result of Covid-19. Now they will receive compensation to which they were entitled all along. The judgment could affect up to 1,300 other businesses that hold similar policies with FBD. However, thousands of other businesses have similar but not identical policies with other insurers. We know the industry is still trying to wriggle out of paying these valid claims. As the CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland has made clear, insurance companies, including AIG, Aviva, Allianz, RSA and QBE, are still dragging their heels and refusing to pay even interim payments to businesses. This needs to stop.
There are two options. Either the Central Bank intervenes, as I have been calling for since as far back as last March, or there will be a wave of litigation at a cost that is too high for many small businesses. Since March last year, I have been calling for the Central Bank to intervene. Business interruption risks becoming the tracker mortgage scandal of the insurance industry. I wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank and to the Tánaiste again last week requesting that the Central Bank undertake an examination similar to the tracker mortgage examination. This would mean an audit of all business interruption insurance policies, intrusive supervision of claims handling, handling claims speedily and the enforcement of a strict sanction regime. This is what business needs. The Central Bank has always had this power and role but it refuses to use it.
Will the Tánaiste support my request for the Central Bank to stand up for small businesses and undertake an examination of business interruption insurance across the insurance industry?