I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 75 together.
At the outset, the Deputies should note that the Minister for Finance is responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither I, the Minister for Finance, 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. However, as the Deputy is aware, in my role as the Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, I have raised the issue of dual pricing with the Central Bank at a recent meeting and sought their views. In response, the Central Bank has confirmed that they will undertake a review of price optimisation, which includes the practice of dual pricing, as this has been identified as a potential consumer risk by the Central Bank in its sectoral risk assessment of the insurance sector.
I understand that the first step of this review will be a comprehensive data gathering and analysis exercise to determine the scale and prevalence of price optimisation across the insurance sector and its precise effects on consumer groups. I also understand that the Central Bank intends to engage with key stakeholders, most notably the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, on the terms of reference of this review and on the nature and scope of any potential remedies. It is the Central Bank’s intention that the data gathering exercise will inform its views on any legal, supervisory and policy measures that may be required – but any such interventions will need to be carefully considered.
I would agree with the Central Bank’s assessment of the complexity of this issue and that we will need to carefully consider any potential remedies, as to do so may improve matters for certain consumers while at the same time impact negatively on other consumers. I do not think we are at the point of making conclusions on this issue and I will await the views of the Bank in this regard.
Finally, the Deputies should note that the insurance business linked to An Post operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of An Post and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Like other insurance companies, I cannot direct or interfere in the commercial decisions that it makes in relation to pricing or coverage.