Dual insurance pricing more widespread than firms admit, Central Bank finds

Insurers in Ireland have been found to offer new customers better rates than those renewing their policies. File photo: iStock

Dual pricing across motor and home insurance policies is more common than coverage providers have admitted, a Central Bank review of the sector has found.

The findings come at a time when the Government has committed to removing such practices from the Irish market.

The regulatory authority moved last November to start a review of dual, or differential, pricing in the insurance market, where customers with a similar risk profile are charged different premiums.

It mostly happens when insurers offer new customers better rates than those renewing their policies, who may end up paying a “loyalty premium” that penalises them for not shopping around.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty said data is collected from social media posts to feed into the practice – he called for dual pricing to be abolished.

"This practice not only needs to be investigated by the Central Bank, which is happening, but it needs to be ended," he said.

Derville Rowland, director general of financial conduct at the Central Bank, told the chief executives of insurance firms in a letter this week that the regulator had “observed that the majority of 11 firms being reviewed do utilise differential pricing through various techniques”.

While the Programme for Government, agreed in June, pledged to work to “remove dual pricing” from the insurance market, the Central Bank’s director of consumer protection, Grainne McEvoy, advocated on Wednesday for a “measured and proportional approach, based on actual tangible evidence”.

While the Central Bank plans to complete an interim report on the practice by the end of this year, it is not yet clear whether they will contain recommendations. A final report is expected to be published in the third quarter of next year.