As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. My Department does not collect the type of information being sought by the Deputy. As the day to day supervision of insurance undertakings is a matter for the Central Bank of Ireland, my officials consulted with the Bank in respect of the information sought and it has confirmed that it does not collect this information either.
With regard to the cost of insurance for returning emigrants, it is important to note that 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 difficulties faced by returning emigrants in respect of motor insurance recognised by the Cost of Insurance Working Group’s Motor report. In this regard, 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.
The guiding principle of the protocol is to ensure that a returning emigrant is not treated differently to any other driver, subject to verification of their continued driving experience and the normal acceptance criteria of the company. Thus, a returning emigrant will not be disadvantaged from spending that 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.
The Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, Mr Ciarán Cannon TD, has undertaken some further work in this area, through the Interdepartmental Committee on the Irish Abroad. This has included highlighting each individual motor insurance operator’s overall policy in respect of returning emigrants. The insurers which responded positively in relation to providing cover for this category are listed on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. These insurers have also indicated that they do, in one way or another, take into account claims-free driving experience earned abroad.
It is important to highlight that if a returning emigrant believes that they have received a high quote due to an insurance provider not accepting driving experience gained while abroad, they should contact the free Insurance Information Service operated by Insurance Ireland, which can be accessed at email@example.com or 01-6761820.
Finally, I remain of the view that the continued implementation of all the recommendations from the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance – in addition to those in the CIWG’s Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance and the two reports of the Personal Injuries Commission – should achieve the objectives of delivering fairer premiums for consumers and a more stable and competitive insurance market.
In this regard, it should be noted that the CSO CPI statistics indicate that pricing in the private motor insurance market has stabilised over the last year or two and I welcome the direction of travel which this index has displayed since it peaked in July 2016.