As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither I nor the Central Bank of Ireland can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, as these matters are of a commercial nature, and are determined by insurance companies based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance which expressly prohibits Member States from adopting rules which require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products. Consequently, I am not in a position to review individual cases as to the pricing level or terms or conditions that should apply in such cases.
However, I wish to inform the Deputy that issues faced by returned emigrants, both from EU and non-EU countries, featured prominently in the Cost of Insurance Working Group’s examination of the motor insurance sector. Accordingly, Recommendation 6 of the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance aims to address the problems faced by this category of drivers. Pursuant to this recommendation, a protocol has been agreed between the Department and Insurance Ireland under which insurance companies have committed to accepting the driving experience returning emigrants gained while abroad, when the driver has had previous driving experience in Ireland. The guiding principle of the protocol is to ensure that a returning emigrant is not treated any differently to any other driver subject to their ability to demonstrate, and the insurance company to verify, continuous driving experience and the normal acceptance criteria of the company. What this means is that the returning emigrant will not be disadvantaged from spending time abroad. Furthermore, under the protocol insurance companies will not distinguish between countries on the basis of which side of the road driving takes place therein or, indeed, whether the country is a member of the EU or not.
In addition to the above, insurance companies have agreed to provide relevant and helpful information on their websites to make it easier for consumers to understand the implications of their move abroad from a motor insurance perspective. As part of this exercise, they will outline what people need to do under a number of different circumstances depending on the length of time they intend being away from Ireland.
Insurance Ireland submitted a report on the implementation of this recommendation to the Department of Finance on 22 December 2017. This report confirmed that Insurance Ireland members have agreed to publish the wording of the agreed protocol on their company websites and any other forms of social media, in addition to providing training for staff who can work through issues with emigrants before they leave, whilst they are out of the country and when they return to Ireland. The stated intention is “to resolve any issues well before they arise and for the consumer to be aware of the considerations when moving abroad”. The wording of the agreed protocol is also available on the Insurance Ireland website.
The report also outlines some sample cases which demonstrate how the rolling-out of the protocol has already led to disputed cases being resolved to the benefit of returning emigrants, and provides figures indicating that the number of such cases being processed under the Declined Cases Agreement is decreasing.
If, however, a returning emigrant is unable to secure a motor insurance quotation on the open market, they may be in a position to avail of the Declined Cases Agreement process, and the relevant contact details are: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01-6761914. More generally, Insurance Ireland operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to obtaining insurance, which can be accessed at email@example.com or 01-6761820.