State action on Covid19-related business interruption claims ‘invisible’
As horseman Sean Kilkenny continues his insurance protest trek from County Clare to Leinster House with his coach and horses, the Alliance for Insurance Reform has expressed intense frustration at ongoing delays in action on insurance.
Linda Murray, Director of the Alliance and owner of Huckleberry’s Den play centre in Navan said “We completely sympathise with Sean on the loss of his livelihood and echo his call for ‘complete reform of insurance in Ireland’.
“SMEs, community and voluntary groups are dealing with the results of that lack of reform every day, through unsustainable insurance costs and fear for the future of their organisation as the insurance crisis hampers their recovery from the pandemic.”
Michael Magner, Chair of the Alliance’s Covid19 Working Group and owner of Cork’s Vienna Woods Hotel said “The Covid19 pandemic has thrown up multiple issues with regard to insurance and the State response on business interruption (BI) claims in particular has been invisible. The Alliance wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank on the 23rd March urging him to take action that would “quickly turn a blanket ban (by insurers on covering any Covid19-related BI claims) into a sensible resolution of the problem.” To date, all we have seen from the Central Bank is a number of public pronouncements, but no solid action.
“Equally, our June 8th request to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman that he “put in place an emergency fast track process leading to a legally binding decision for the business interruption related complaints your office has already received, in order to provide some guidance to the many businesses faced with BI refusals” has gone unanswered.
“Small businesses and community enterprises waiting for clarification on their business interruption claims cannot wait for months or even years for a clear decision. Following standard operating procedures is not enough in this crisis. We urge the Central Bank Governor and the Ombudsman to move swiftly to get clarity on who is covered by BI insurance and to what extent.”
Peter Boland, Director of the Alliance said ” If the Government is expecting the economy to recover through SMEs and for society to recover through community and voluntary groups, insurance reform needs to be resolved this year. While the pandemic has made matters even worse for policyholders, the fundamentals that must be addressed have not changed.
“Unfair general damages must be cut to reflect international norms and ensure that legitimate minor injuries attract modest damages. The Alliance expects general damages for minor injuries to be dramatically reduced along the lines of the Fair Book of Quantum published by ISME.
“The ‘common duty of care’ must be urgently reviewed and re-balanced so that occupiers are required to take a duty of care that is reasonable, practical and proportionate but not absolute, ignoring personal responsibility.
“A fully resourced, dedicated Garda Insurance Fraud Unit must be established.
“And Government must insist on insurers committing to a schedule of reductions on delivery of the key reforms being progressed.
“Finally, we call again on Government to reinstate the Cabinet subcommittee on insurance reform dropped at the last minute from the final Programme for Government document. With all relevant Ministers and civil servants to be actively involved, this committee is essential to coordinate action and ensure the necessary reforms are put in place urgently.”