Donegal Deputy Pearse Doherty’s bill on consumer insurance reform has officially passed all stages of the Oireachtas and is on its way to be signed into law by the President.
The Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill was approved by the Dáil on Thursday evening, having passed through the Seanad last week.
It is expected to become law by the end of 2019.
The legislation would modernise insurance contracts and prevent insurance companies refusing a claim when it has not received a full and complete disclosure from the customer, even in a situation where if this information had been disclosed, it would have had minimal or no impact on the decision to provide cover in the first place.
The bill would also make it easier for the customer to withdraw from a contract.
Any company that cancels a policy would also have to pay the customer the outstanding balance of the premium paid.
Deputy Doherty said: “This legislation is the biggest win for policyholders in this Dáil. Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for workers and families.”
Outlining the legislation, Doherty said: “Our Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill will shift the balance in favour of policyholders, by increasing transparency and strengthening the hand of the policyholder during their insurance contract. It is the only legislation that has been passed since 2016 that focusses on policyholders, increasing their protections.
“On a personal note, this is my second piece of legislation to pass through the Oireachtas. The first, the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Bill, was signed into law in July 2017, which strengthened the powers of the Financial Services Ombudsman, and allowed thousands of families to have their cases heard. Like this legislation, it put consumers first, above corporate and vested interests.
“This legislation has been described as the most radical change in consumer law in centuries, and as a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform.
“It would require companies to inform consumers of the past 5 years of premiums paid by customers, and claims paid to customers and third parties for all non-life insurance contracts.
“From now on, where there is uncertainty in any document or contract, the rule of law and interpretation in favour of the consumer will prevail. Form now on, it will be up to the insurer to ask the relevant questions when a consumer or business takes out a policy, reversing the current status quo which places the burden and responsibility on the consumer to volunteer information.
“Companies will no longer be able to easily settle third party claims without the policyholder knowing. They will have to inform customers of any claim made against their policy, allowing them to submit their own evidence and informing them of the cost of any claim against their policy that has been settled.
“After last week’s revelations of some, enabled by the legal industry, engaging in fraudulent claims, this provision is crucial. It would ensure that policyholders would be told of any third party claims made against their policy, fraudulent or otherwise, and have a right to submit evidence concerning the claim.
“The legislation would also make it harder for an insurer to wriggle out of paying valid claims on grounds that have nothing to do with the accident or loss incurred by the policyholder.
“I want to thank Minister D’Arcy for his cooperation in facilitating the passage of this Bill. We now on track for it to be signed into law by Christmas,” Doherty concluded.