At the outset, it is important to note that 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 direct insurance companies as to the pricing level or terms or conditions that they should apply in respect of particular categories of drivers or vehicles.
Notwithstanding this, the issues that the Deputy mentions in her question are either being addressed as part of the Cost of Insurance Working Group’s ongoing implementation of its recommendations or have been examined as part of my Department’s ongoing work. In relation to returning emigrants, the Deputy may be aware that in fulfilment of one of the Working Group’s recommendations, a protocol was agreed between Insurance Ireland and the Department of Finance under which insurance companies committed to accepting the driving experience returning emigrants gained while abroad, when the driver has had previous driving experience in Ireland. Insurance Ireland submitted a report to the Department in 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.
Regarding drivers of older cars, I am aware of a number of complaints made through representations to my Department on this matter. As a result my officials have engaged with Insurance Ireland in order to get a greater sense of the issue. In these discussions, Insurance Ireland indicated that they had not discerned a particular trend from enquiries received through its helpline in relation to this topic.
Consequently, as a follow up exercise, Minister of State D'Arcy held a series of meetings with the Chief Executives of the major insurers. At those meetings, insurers pointed out that in making their individual decisions on whether to offer cover and what terms to apply, they will, aside from the age of the car, use a combination of other rating factors, which include the age of the driver and type of the vehicle, the relevant claims record and driving experience, the number of drivers, how the car is used, etc. In addition to the above factors, they indicated that they will price in accordance with their own overall past claims experience.
I understand from the above engagement that it would appear that there has been some movement in respect of the acceptance criteria and the vehicle age threshold levels used by some providers in recent times, particularly at broker level. However, this is an issue which my officials will continue to monitor.
Finally, in relation to drivers that are switching from named driver status to fully comprehensive in their own right, Departmental officials have previously discussed this matter with Insurance Ireland and it confirmed that while some insurers do not recognise claims-free driving experience as a named driver, a number of providers do.
In summary, therefore, this issue and the other issues above, demonstrates the need for people to “shop around”. As I have previously stated in replies to questions from Deputies, I would recommend drivers who are quoted increased premiums to consult the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website, which has an informative section regarding the purchase of car insurance generally. One of the key tips listed to help cut costs is to “shop around” and “always get quotes from several insurance providers when you need to get or renew insurance”.