August 20, 2021
Failure of Competition Authority to take legal action against insurers for breach of competition law a blow for consumers – Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has said that the decision by the Competition Authority not to take legal action against insurance companies, despite preliminary findings in September 2020 that there were grounds to suspect a breach of competition law, as a deeply disappointing blow to consumers.

The Donegal TD said that today’s CPCC announcement underlined a rotten culture at the heart of the industry and a government that has enabled that culture to thrive unopposed.

He called on the government to wake up, end the light-touch regulation they have permitted, and enhance the powers of the Competition Authority without delay.

Teachta Doherty said:

“The decision by the Competition Authority not to take legal action, after a five-year probe into the insurance industry for illegal and anti-competitive pricing practices that harm consumers, is deeply disappointing.

“In its preliminary findings, the CCPC made clear that it had reasonable grounds to suspect that competition law had been broken between 2015 and 2016, a period in which motor insurance premiums rose by an astonishing 35 percent.

“Despite this, and the time and resources that have gone into this probe in the past five years, the Competition Authority has chosen not to take legal action.

“This is a disappointing blow for consumers, which provides cover for the insurance industry.

“The CCPC does not have the powers to make any legally enforceable findings that there have been breaches of competition law.

“Under current legislation, only the courts have that power. If the CCPC is serious about holding insurers to account, then they should have taken legal action.

“In the past year, the insurance industry has been charged by the EU for breaching antitrust rules, and has been found by the Central Bank to use discriminatory pricing practices against its customers.

“Now, several of its biggest players have been forced to sign up to new compliance measures with the Competition Authority as a result of its investigation into price-fixing practices.

“This industry has repeatedly undermined and ripped off consumers.

“Worse still, it has been enabled in these practices by government.

“It once again reveals the light-touch regulation that exists in the financial services and insurance sectors under Fine Gael.

“The ECN+ Directive to increase the independence, resources and powers of competition authorities was required to be transposed into law by 4th February.

“But the Minister with responsibility, Leo Varadkar, has failed to meet the deadline or even publish the legislation to transpose the directive.

“The government must wake up, end the light-touch regulation it has permitted, and enhance the powers of the Competition Authority without delay.”

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