'The consumer comes last' - TDs offer scathing criticisms of insurance companies

File photo
By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

Customers 'do not come first - they come last' at the hands of insurance companies, a junior finance minister suggested.

Scathing criticisms of insurance companies were heard yesterday during oral finance questions, in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath said, despite much talk from Government, insurance companies still do not provide basic information to customers when they are seeking to renew their policies.

“Policyholders are still not even told in their renewal notices what premiums they paid in the previous year. I got my car insurance quote recently and there was no information on what I paid last year. I had to contact the insurance company to check. That is a joke,” he said.

Minister Michael Darcy was called upon to explain what actions the Government is taking to protect consumers amid sharp hikes in premiums.

Michael Darcy

The biggest issue with the insurance companies is that the customer does not come first; he or she comes last. That is a terrible position for customers to find themselves in vis-à-vis the companies from which they purchase products. The consumer does not come first, the consumer comes last,” the minister claimed.

“The deputies will have seen that I have proposed the establishment of an insurance culture board similar to the Irish Banking Culture Board. It is something that badly needs to be reconfigured. On too many occasions, Irish consumers do not come first with the companies with which they contract. Without their customers, the insurance companies do not have a basis for their business.”

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty gave voice to concerns by business owners reportedly being forced out of trading due to a spike in premiums. “We all hear the anger among small businesses, be they grocers, soft play areas, pubs and retail outlets, at the dramatic increase they face in insurance costs."

He said that two-and-a-half years on from all the glossy reports, “we have less transparency because we did have a certain degree of transparency”.

“The blue book was published annually by the Central Bank but it has been withdrawn. The private motor insurance statistics were also published but they are no longer available.

“We have action point after action point but we have less transparency. Businesses are going to the wall because insurance companies can spin and refer to figures nobody else has and nobody can ask them what they are doing. They are putting people out of business because of the astronomical increases,” Deputy Doherty added.

Mr Darcy replied: “I understand and accept there is anger. Everything I am doing is to try to ensure that we give businesses the opportunity to stay in business. I will not pretend that the insurance companies are white knights. They have been unhelpful in terms of how they hold their information."

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