At the outset, I understand that the current COVID-19 restrictions may be having an impact upon those currently undertaking self-build projects. With regard to insurance and the need to extend such cover at no extra cost, it is important to note that neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can intervene in the provision or pricing of insurance products or have the power to direct insurance companies to provide cover to specific individuals or businesses. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive) which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.
I understand that self-build insurance policies can contain a number of elements, such as: protection for the building(s) under construction; employers liability; public liability, plant cover; temporary dwelling and caravan cover; and so on. This will vary by policy and by company. It may be difficult for an insurer, from a risk and prudential basis, to extend such policies at no extra cost where some aspects of the policy remain ‘live’ despite the ongoing restrictions on construction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic measures.
Notwithstanding this, the Deputy will be aware that both Minister of State Fleming and I have consistently and publicly stated that in the context of COVID-19 we expect insurance firms to treat their customers fairly, honestly, and in accordance with the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code. The Government will continue to work to protect customers during and after the COVID-19 crisis, and engage with the insurance industry in relation to how it responds to the needs of its customers. This commitment is included in the Programme for Government.
Finally, where somebody feels they have been treated unfairly by a particular insurance provider, they have the option of making a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO). The FSPO acts as an independent arbiter of disputes which consumers may have with their insurance company or other financial service provider. The FSPO can be contacted either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 01-567-7000.