I am concerned about the difficulties that are being caused by high insurance premiums, especially in relation to young drivers. The insurance reform programme that I announced on 25 October 2002 comprises a comprehensive set of inter-related measures designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market. The key measures include the implementation of the recommendations in the Motor Insurance Advisory Board action plan within a target timeframe. To date 32 of the recommendations have been fully implemented, three partially implemented and work is in progress on the implementation of the other recommendations.
The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Bill 2003 completed its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas on 19 December 2003 and was signed into law on 28 December 2003. The Act will be commenced in early 2004 providing for the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board on a statutory basis and allowing the board to deal with cases.
My Department and the Competition Authority have undertaken a joint study into the insurance market. The study will identify and analyse barriers to entry and limitations on rivalry in the insurance marketplace. A significant amount of the work was completed in 2003 and a report will be produced in the near future.
I chair a ministerial committee established to drive the co-ordinated implementation of the reform programme across the relevant Government Departments and other bodies concerned. Substantial progress is being made on a range of measures that will radically overhaul the functioning of the insurance market and help tackle the high cost of insurance. These include measures to reduce the number of accidents, to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated claims and streamline the law in relation to personal injury claims.
The MIAB recommendations that the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, is charged with progressing, deal with issues relating to public information, promotion of competition, transparency and consumer protection. One such recommendation relates to gathering of statistics on motor insurance and claims costs by IFSRA. On 10 December 2003, IFSRA published its first set of comparative tables of motor insurance quotations on its website,www.ifsra.ie. The motor insurance cost survey is based on eight driver profiles and is designed to show the range of quotes available for specific drivers in Ireland. Regular surveys will be published on the IFSRA website at three monthly intervals. This may be of particular interest to young drivers and demonstrates the advantages of shopping around.
While EU law prohibits the imposition of price control on insurance there is an onus on the insurance industry to ensure that the reforms being undertaken will have the effect of significantly reducing the cost of premiums to consumers and businesses. A number of insurers have announced reductions in motor insurance premiums and the CSO has noted a significant contribution from insurance to the recent reduction in inflation. As implementation of the reform programme continues, I expect further reductions to occur.