Is dual-pricing ripping you off? What can you do about it? My thoughts on the current state of the insurance market.

Sinn Fein TD, Pearse Doherty, this week raised the issue of dual-pricing by motor insurance providers. He gave the simple example of him applying his details when looking for a new quote and getting a much cheaper price than that offered on his renewal quote.

This is an exploitative practice which takes advantage of you and punishes your loyalty. Here's the kicker, they're all doing it. You can shop around and maybe get a better deal with someone else but you can be guaranteed in a year or two you'll be facing the same situation. The trouble is, there isn't enough competition in the Irish insurance market to really combat their ability to exploit you. Because it's law, you have to get your motor insurance from a very select group so the threat of you taking your business elsewhere doesn't exactly hold water because someone else will be stepping in to pay the premium you've just declined. It is, even without the intent, a cartel.

It's a never ending merry-go-round that few in government seem willing to put the brakes on. The way I see it, there are three options that those in power could go for.

1. Increase competition. This is the most obvious one but requires a major cutting of the judicial and out-of-court awards. Getting more companies into the market gives consumers more choice and will enforce a form of self-regulation. Foreign companies, however, are put off the the absolute chaos that is the Irish insurance system at the moment. Who in their right mind would want to set up a new insurance business here given the enormity of our court awards?

2. Open up the EU market. We can buy clothes, tech and food from across the EU, why not include insurance in that as well? Insurance costs, particularly motor insurance, are much cheaper on the continent. Simply allowing us to purchase from Spain, Germany etc could be a potential option. The trouble with it? Insurance is a financial product and would require synchronising our financial markets with our EU neighbours. Given the ongoing battle surrounding our corporate tax rate, I can't see our government TDs going anywhere near it.

3. Change the insurance system entirely. This would require a constitutional change and therefore a referendum, but it could be done. We could implement a system of insurance whereby the basic level of insurance (third party) is paid for out of general taxation or a levy on fuel. It would require a governmental insurance department to run it and resolve claim issues etc. In effect a public-owned insurance company. Private companies could offer supplementary products like fully-comp insurance which motorists would no longer be obliged to purchase.

The third option would be my preference. Given that motor insurance is required by law, I think it is only right that those who apply the law offer the coverage. Private companies are driven entirely by profit. Normally I have no issue with that, but when you force your populace to purchase their product, it lends itself to exploitation. The initial argument against this would be job losses. The insurance companies would threaten cuts etc. But if done right, those jobs would simply be moved to the public sector rather than the private sector. Also, given how many companies are closing these days due to the ridiculous public liability insurance prices, if we expand this system of insurance to incorporate this, it would lead to an increase in jobs instead.

This system would require constitutional change to enact, but it can work if the political will is there.

If you're reading this, I ask a simple favour of you. Please email your local TD, their email address can be found at If you wish, simply forward this article to them and ask that they look it over.

Does dodgy suit by TD point to greater societal issue?

By now we will all have seen the case being brought to the courts by Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey following her fall from a swing in a Dublin hotel. I, as have many of you reading this, have been rightly outraged at the case. Given the intense focus on fraudulent and exaggerated insurance claims in the media, it was shortsighted of her at the very least, arrogant at worst,  to proceed with such a frivolous suit.

Since the story first broke, I've seen hundreds of comments on social media regarding it. Not a single one in support of her case, all outraged at an elected representative contributing the ongoing insurance crisis. Many decrying the fact that a TD feels she should have been "supervised" while using a swing, something most of us master by the age of 4. She has been condemned in the strongest of terms and rightly so. Our elected representatives have to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us in my view. Herein lies the issue.

The "rest of us" are the ones driving this compo culture. We are the ones who permit this culture to fester and grow. I have seen people being congratulated after a minor car accident in advance of a guaranteed windfall. I've seen people encouraged to get a solicitor after tripping in a shop.

"Sure you may as well for the few quid" is the justification for it. It's easy to see the appeal. How can people not be tempted by an almost guaranteed €20,000 for a minor bump on the road? How could we not have our head turned by such a windfall?

I myself have seen the temptation. Last summer I fell and dislocated my knee in a bar, spent the night in A&E and a month in a cast. I was encouraged by others to take a suit against them. Knowing the insurance market like I do, I know I would have got a sizeable payout had I pursued this. Of course, given my history, it would have been highly hypocritical of me to do such a thing. I did wonder however, had I not been so heavily involved in the insurance campaign, would I have been tempted? I'd like to think I have enough integrity that I would have accepted the fall was my own fault either way. But the lure of an extra 5,10 or 20 thousand euros is not easily resisted for many.

We all know these claims add to the problem. But when it's brought down to an individual level then it's rare we see the woods through the trees. We tend to think of ourselves and what we can gain in the here and now when these "opportunities" are presented to us. At that moment, the greater issue doesn't register with us. All we think of is the chance to pay off some debts or go on holiday. When we're presented with these outrageous figures for minor incidents that don't or didn't have any major impact on our lives. It's easy money really.

That being said, those dishing out the rewards are more to blame in my view. It's not even the size of the rewards in most cases that irks me. It's the laughable cases that are deemed deserving of them. If you've been hit by a car and end up with a broken arm or other similar injury, fair enough. In this case, you should definitely claim and if it's €20,000 or €30,000 you get then fine. However, if you slip on a floor, or fall off a swing, high awards for such a thing cannot be tolerated. We need our laws to acknowledge that accidents are sometimes just that, accidents. There is not always someone to blame.

We cannot expect that people will stop looking out for themselves. This compo culture is too far gone to expect it to sort itself out. It needs to start at the top. Award levels and frequency simply have to be reduced, there is no alternative any more. There is no silver bullet that will sort out this insurance crisis but this would be a damn good place to start.

Ireland Underground Condemns Latest Insurance Levy

Despite assurances that it is working towards stabilising and reducing the cost of insurance for embattled Motorists, it has been reported today that the Government is set to introduce another 2% levy on top of premiums.

The levy, a response to the collapse of Setanta Insurance, is set to last for 7 years. This is yet another example of the governments lack of consideration for cash-strapped motorists who have been burdened with ever increasing costs for a number of years now. After progress implementing the recommendations of the cost of insurance working group ground to a halt, it seems as if this latest decision signals a complete about-turn in the governments efforts to alleviate some of the financial strain on all categories of motorist.

Ireland Underground condemns this decision in the strongest possible terms. It is an inconsiderate move by the government to force motorists to pick up the tab for the mistakes of a private business and those who regulate the insurance market.

Minister being misled by insurance companies regarding tracking devices

Junior minister for finance Michael D'Arcy has recently been quoted as saying that young drivers should have tracking devices installed in their cars to help reduce premiums by 50%. According to the minister, young drivers are "choosing to pay a higher premium" rather than use telematic devices on their vehicle.

This information is presumably being supplied to the minister from the insurance companies, however, the facts on the ground appear to directly contradict this. In a single post on our Facebook page we have shown numerous instances of these devices either making no difference to premiums at all, or being too inconsistent to be reliable. Short journeys are not accepted for many companies, others threaten you with cancellation of your policy if you do not meet their minimum mileage requirements, others still charge you more if you go over their maximum mileage allowed.

To say that young drivers are "refusing" to use this technology is grossly unfair and naive on the ministers part.

"Tracking devices will not change the extortionate rates young drivers are charged, regulation will", according to Sinn Fein Councillor, Toireasa Ferris.

Councillor Ferris insists that the ministers efforts would be better used "establishing a mutual insurance fund or regulating the private insurance sector".

Despite CSO statistics showing the average cost of motor insurance declining in the last 12-18 months, many individuals, particularly younger drivers are still paying sky-high premiums and struggling to get on the road. It is particularly difficult for those in rural areas where public transport is not an option.

The department of finance has been dragging its feet on this matter for far too long, it has had numerous submissions over the last 2 years with various options for tackling the extortionate cost of insurance. It has long since past crisis point. The private insurance sector itself has had many opportunities to correct itself and still refuses to do so. Perhaps it is time for Ireland to look at an altogether different system of insurance. A no-fault system, much like New Zealand, has often been mentioned but not fully analysed by the department. It may be that such a radical change is beyond this current government, it would almost certainly upset the interest of the companies involved in the sector. It would likely, however, be of benefit to the people.

Leaving aside the above, for the minister to suggest that these devices become mandatory for young drivers in the future is particularly worrying in the current climate given the significant data breaches that have occurred of late. Insurance companies already garner little trust from the general public given their lack of transparency and cartel-like behaviour. There is nothing to suggest that they can be trusted to store the data they gather in a responsible way. If nothing else, it would be a major breach of our right to privacy to force these devices on us.

Fury over lack of insurance reform

Policy holders have been 'thrown to the wolves' by Government 

The Alliance of insurance Reform has expressed its intense disappointment at the slow pace of reform in the insurance and judicial industries following a meeting with Michel D'Arcy TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for Insurance at Government Buildings today. 

Speaking after the meeting, Eoin McCambridge of McCambridges of Galway and director of the Alliance said: 
"The Government promised  'to identify immediate and longer term measures which can address increasing costs', when they launched the Cost of Insurance Working Group in September 2016. We turned up at Government Buildings today expecting news on significant actions. What we have got instead is death by a thousand consultations and the dead hand  of vested interests . The hard-pressed motorists, charities, voluntary groups, sports clubs and businesses around the country cannot wait for reform.  It must happen now. 
The Government has been hoodwinked into believing motor insurance premiums are on the way down. In reality, they are up 42% since January 2014, with increasing numbers of young drivers and owners of older cars unable to get insurance at all.
Meanwhile, charities, voluntary groups, sports clubs and businesses are reporting enormous increases in their liability insurance premiums, a crisis happening behind closed doors due to the lack of any data from the secretive insurance industry. We feel like we've been thrown to the wolves by the Government with no real help in sight."

Ivan Cooper, Director of Advocacy with The Wheel (Ireland's national association for community, voluntary and charitable organisations) said after the meeting: 
"The insurance issue is increasingly impacting on our members in terms of their costs and the restrictions placed on their activities by insurance policies. This situation is unsustainable as it is a block on voluntary organisations who want to contribute to Irish society. We are calling today for an acceleration in the pace of reform in the industry." 

Also speaking after the meeting was Peter Boland of the Alliance for Insurance Reform. He said: 
 "The CIWG Reports are now littered with examples of positive-sounding actions that have been interminably delayed or neutered. For example, a protocol was proposed that would oblige insurance companies to notify a policyholder of claims made against them before settlement. This was supposed to be in place since the end of 2017 but has disappeared into the  ether.   
Likewise, a Garda Unit specialising in insurance fraud and funded by the insurance industry was due to be in place by the end of last year. Again, this has disappeared without trace. 
Furthermore, what has been completed is completely unsatisfactory. For example the insurance industry was to be compelled to explain large premium increases to motorists. Instead, what was agreed between the industry and the Department of Finance was a blend generic statement that will be sent out with every premium increase and is a masterclass in saying everything and saying nothing.  (

"Overall, the Government's CIWG is turning into a long-term process and there is no point in a long-term process to address an urgent issue. The actions the Alliance are focusing on are ones we believe to be just, proportionate, feasible, achievable within a limited timeframe and ultimately, we believe, effective."

The actions the Alliance wants taken right now are :
·         Link Sections 26 and 25 of the Civil Liability Act 2004 so that if a claim is dismissed because it is false or misleading, it is automatically referred to the Gardai for prosecution under Section 25.
·         Push on the establishment of the Garda Insurance Fraud Unit funded by Insurance Industry
·         Regulate claims management companies (claims harvesters)
·         General damages to be consistent with comparable European norms
·         Tariffs for specific injuries to be proportionate with the Court of Appeal cap of €450,000 for catastrophic injuries
·         Consistency in the awarding of general damages among judges
·         Transparent data on the insurance industry so that we can identify why the crisis is happening 
·         Transparency from insurance companies on why individual premiums are increased
·         Transparency from insurance companies on how, when and why claims are settled.
Commented McCambridge, "It was agreed that the Alliance would meet the Minister and his team again soon to follow up on progress. We will be expecting a lot more action soon if reform is going to make any difference for our members". 

It's been a while...

Hi everyone!

I know it's been a while since I've written or posted anything of substance. I wish I could say I've been working constantly behind the scenes to try to get your insurance premiums down, but the truth is I've just been too busy to keep up the amount of lobbying and media interviews that I had been doing.

At this point I think I've done all I can do as an individual short of running for election (don't expect to see that happening any time soon!). What I have been doing though, is keeping an eye on how things are progressing. It's been jut over 12 months since I sat in front of the Dáil committee giving them my two cents and, it seems, things are moving in the right direction. I've been stopped on the street a number of times now by people who tell me their premiums have come down since I started banging on about it. The CSO figures on premium prices are also encouraging, showing them going in the right direction.

I know from the many Facebook comments that not all of you have felt the strain easing yet, but you will soon I promise. In the meantime, you can help. There's only so much lobbying of politicians I can do on my own. So I'm reaching out to all of you to ask you to send emails either to your local TD or the minister of state Michael D'Arcy. You may not think it, but every email that lands in the inbox of our politicians grabs their attention at some stage, and the more they see coming in about motor insurance, the more seriously they take it. If we can keep the pressure up, especially in the run up to the budget, then we can make sure it is seen as a priority. Below I have pasted an email I recently wrote to Deputy D'Arcy, feel free to copy it for your own purposes.


Minister D'Arcy,
I hope this email finds you well.
Last year, I sat in front of an oireachtes committee which was looking into the price rise in motor insurance. I corresponded with your predecessor a number of times on the matter also. I am writing to you today on behalf of those whom I represent, young drivers.
As you may be aware, I have been campaigning for a while now to try keep the spotlight on the issue of high insurance costs. I have met with various stakeholders, from the CEO of insurance Ireland to various industry lobbyists, journalists and politicians. What I can gather from the contrasting pieces of information is that the industry is, to put it mildly, a mess. I wonder, minister, if the effort it would take to try get the market back on track would be worth it?
My own personal opinion is this, and you can take it or leave it as you please. Motor insurance is a legal requirement as set by the government but it is run by private businesses. I believe this is a conflict of interest, so to speak. I believe this is a recipe for disaster, I believe it needs to be overhauled completely. The Government is there to represent and protect the people of Ireland. Private industry is there to exploit them, for want of a better word. (I should point out at this stage that I have no problem with private industry and I don't make the following suggestion to spite them).
I would propose that our Republic changes the system of insurance to a model such as they operate in New Zealand, a "no fault universal insurance". The details are more complicated I'm sure, but the general idea is that third party liability is covered through general taxation. This removes the legal requirement for people to purchase insurance. They can, f course, still go to private companies for more extensive cover should they wish. Now, I'm no fool, I'm sure this system has it's drawbacks. Does it, for example, take responsibility for poor driving away from those behind the wheel? Would people be more careless on the road knowing they don't have to worry about increased premiums if they have an accident?
These are questions which need to be asked and answered. Unfortunately I don't have the time or resources to research this myself, but I believe this radical change is something worth looking into. I hope it is something you may devote some time to, for the benefit of all drivers here.
If I can ever be of assistance, feel free to reach out.
Kindest Regards,
Kian Griffin
Ireland Underground

Has the Time Arrived for Universal No Fault Personal Injuries Insurance?

By James O'Mahony 

Judge Seamus Hughes of Longford District Court recently said that he will no longer send young people to jail for driving without insurance.  He said the “huge increase” in uninsured young drivers had become a national problem, blaming the rising cost of insurance premiums on “excessive claims” being awarded.  The Judge said that new premiums were so excessive, that they were preventing young people from getting to work.  He suggested that Ireland adopt the English approach.

Well, let’s adopt the New Zealand approach instead.  

In New Zealand, everybody pays a portion of their income into a universal no fault personal injuries fund to cover them for personal injuries.  This eliminates the need for public liability, employee liability and medical negligence insurance.  It renders car insurance optional where third party property damage insurance is included in the price of fuel.  In fact, car insurance is only purchased where someone has borrowed money to buy a car.  

It could even be argued that universal no fault personal injuries insurance saves the environment because the average age of cars on New Zealand’s roads is 14 years old. It could be argued that this is because newer vehicles would require the purchase of car insurance to protect one's investment.  While older vehicles produce more greenhouse gasses, the production of new vehicles also generates a significant amount of greenhouse gas.  So older vehicles may actually be better for the environment than brand new electric vehicles.

The fact that Kiwis don’t import new vehicles like the Irish do, may also have a positive effect on the economy in that money that would be spent on importing new vehicles in Ireland, and generating employment abroad, is spent elsewhere in the New Zealand economy and generating employment in New Zealand rather than abroad.  Older vehicles need more maintenance than newer vehicles so even more jobs are generated.  This is comes under the heading of the “Circular Economy” which  is a concept whereby resource input, waste emission and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing material and energy loops. This can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling.

Because our environment is in such a precarious state, the circular economy will be huge, and generate thousands of jobs in the coming decades.  Sweden, with this in mind, have introduced a tax credit to fund the repair of household appliances instead of throwing them away.  They have also designed the Gripen E and F fighter jets around the idea of the circular economy.  Finland is also to devise a circular economy strategy but I doubt if an Irish politician has ever heard of the concept.  

Of course, Insurance companies in Ireland are dead against the idea of circular economics because they prefer to insure vehicles that are no more than seven years old.  One company will not insure vehicles over nine years old.  Others won’t accept vehicles over ten years old while most companies will be reluctant to take on vehicles over 14 and 15 years old.  In the not too distant future, the Irish government may be obliged by the EU to adopt circular economic policies, not only because of what has been outlined above, but also increased automation and robotics will take more and more jobs.  

How should universal no fault personal injuries insurance work in Ireland?

First of all, there will have to be a root and branch reform of the tax system so that it is much flatter and broader than the existing tax system, to ensure that as many people as possible contribute to the no fault personal injuries fund.  It must also be accompanied by a universal health insurance system. The charges for these two funds must take the form of a two percent universal no fault personal injuries levy and a 12% public health insurance levy and they must be paid into funds that cannot be touched by politicians.   If a person wants, he should be entitled to opt out of these levies by buying approved private products.  This is necessary because sole traders and the members of a partnership, if they make a lot of money, may end up paying an inordinate amount of money for health and personal injuries insurance.  Even though only one percent of us will end up in a nursing home, a two percent nursing care tax should be payable by everyone to fund home help and nursing home care in the event of incapacity.

While health insurance should be used to pay for the delivery of normal everyday healthcare in addition to treatment for personal injuries, the personal injuries insurance, rather than a lump sum, should be used to fund an income of 85% of the claimant’s work income for the duration of the incapacity.  It should also be used to fund home reconfigurations, vehicle reconfigurations etc., in the event that a person becomes wheelchair bound. Where a person is not working, 85% of the typical (as opposed to the average) full working week income should be payable.  Claims for whiplash should be disallowed unless it is obvious from the state of the vehicle that it was travelling at speed. When the claimant dies, and assuming that his responsibilities have “died” too, i.e., children have left school/college and spouse has died or remarried, then the payments should cease.  

Unlike the existing system, where an assailant may not always have the funds to pay compensation, claims for injuries sustained from an assault would also be allowed, and police officers who are currently not covered for injuries caused by a person suffering from a mental illness will be covered under this system.

To make a claim, report the incident to the police, who will approve your claim once they are satisfied that it is a genuine claim.  Then, it will just be a matter of sending it on to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which is already in existence.  A claimant if he wants to, is entitled to challenge the award handed down by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board in the High Court.

Foreigners travelling to Ireland should be warned to have their own personal injuries insurance as the system should only cover people who are resident in Ireland and who are injured in Ireland.

But how should we fund third party property damage?

Instead of fixed penalty fines for driving offences, which can often be small change to wealthier members of society, how about charging a week’s, a couple of week’s, a month’s or even several month’s income for an offence, and use this revenue to partly fund third party property damage. Taxes on fuels could also be repurposed so as to contribute to this fund, but to release funds so as to do that, direct water metering/charging will have to be reintroduced.  This could also facilitate the abolition of VRT.

To make life easier for young drivers who usually don’t own any property and are on low wages, it would be an excellent idea if road tax, local property tax and commercial rates, were replaced with a land value property tax payable by the owner rather than the occupier of the property. In the absence of a need to police car insurance and road tax, the judiciary will have additional resources to police other types of driving offence and indeed other non driving offences.

In the final analysis…

Universal no fault personal injuries insurance has the potential to transform the Irish economy beyond recognition because the need for corporations to buy public liability and employee liability insurance will be gone.  This will enhance competitiveness.  Sole traders and members of partnerships will only have to insure themselves and their property rather than the public and their employees, and when combined with the abolition of road tax and VRT, will contribute hugely to the growth of their business and generate employment.  Most jobs are in small businesses, and most small businesses start out as sole traders and partnerships, so there will be a boom in this area.  People will choose to keep their vehicles for longer rather than take out a car insurance policy to cover a new vehicle.  This will generate additional employment in the circular economy and hold more money in the economy for longer, because money that would have been spent on importing new vehicles will be spent elsewhere in the economy instead.  

Separately from that, it will have a small additional positive impact on productivity as people who may not have been in a position to commute or rent away from home because of the cost, will be able to get on the road and work.  So there will be a reduced demand on social programmes too and enhanced revenues in other areas.

Where the mostly foreign owned insurance firms operating in Ireland will invest much of their revenues abroad, there will be no profit motive in a universal no fault personal injuries insurance setting.  Revenues raised from the universal no fault personal injuries levy could, along with state pension contributions be placed in a constitutionally protected sovereign fund and invested in Ireland so as to generate additional wealth and employment.  Like any other sovereign fund, it can be drawn down as needed to make payments under the personal injuries insurance and pension schemes.  

Health budgets will go further in the absence of a need to buy medical negligence insurance as well as public liability and employee liability insurance. Government revenues in general, will go much further in the absence of a need to buy public and employee liability insurance.  

It may even make a dent in homelessness as those who, in the current insurance environment have to rent close to work or college will find commuting cheaper than maintaining a weekday address and a weekend address. This will be enhanced by the abolition of road tax.  

Universal no fault personal injuries insurance is in operation quite successfully in various forms in  many jurisdictions around the globe including New Zealand, Australia, parts of Canada, Brazil and even parts of Europe and in the absence of lawyers, is much cheaper than the existing Irish system.

Universal no fault personal injuries insurance truely is a “no brainer”!