As young drivers pay an ever increasing amount on car insurance, Edel Hughes examines the monopoly held by insurance companies.
Motor insurance premiums in Ireland have risen sharply over the past year. Almost all drivers, but especially younger drivers and those on provisional licences, have been hit by the increases. According to the AA, Irish drivers will collectively pay an extra €300 million in costs.
Motor insurance is a legal obligation so all drivers must have a minimum of third party, fire and theft insurance.
Many insurance companies have cited "the market" and false claims as the reasons for the increases in premiums. However what this really amounts to is the fallout from the collapse of Setanta Insurance which the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) were forced to pay for.
The MIBI are currently appealing this ruling from the High Court. Brokers have warned that if MIBI lose their appeal, insurance companies will quit Ireland.
The National Competitiveness Council has slammed recent rises of insurance policies as barriers to Ireland's competitiveness and laid the blame at policymakers' doors.
Even drivers with full driving licences and several years of no claims bonuses have been hit with huge hikes when renewing this year.
Nerja aged 30 with a full licence has had an increase from €500 to €1,000 for a fully comprehensive premium with Axa Insurance despite having eight years no claims bonus.
Leela aged 28 has a full licence and had a premium increase of €480 to €750 for full comprehensive insurance with AIG insurance She has five years no claims bonus, no penalty points and no claims. She changed insurance company due to this.
Another factor in changing company for her was the company called her to ask why she had not provided credit card details for renewal purpose. She said, “I felt this was very cheeky of them and I will steer clear of them in the future.”
Tara is a student aged 26 with a provisional licence and 1 year no claims bonus. She has no penalty points or claims yet had an increase from €800 to €1100 for a third party, fire and theft policy with Liberty Insurance.
This left her in a worse position than when she first sought insurance in her own name. Tara had hoped to sit her driving test and pass, however her insurance expired before her test date. She was forced to cancel her test and sell her car instead.
Paul aged 29 has had a full licence for eight years, eight years no claims and no penalty points. His premium increased from €600 to €800 for a fully comprehensive policy with AA insurance. He describes the rise as “inexplicable” and asks, “why should I have to pay for other people’s claims?”
Claire, aged 37, has had a full licence for 18 years, no penalty points and no claims since 10 years ago. She was quoted €980 for a renewal with Allianz. The previous year she paid €442.50 for fully comprehensive cover. Claire has a large, older car to take her four children to school. On finding a better deal, she switched insurer.
Siobhan aged 30 had a provisional licence when initially applying for insurance. As she had no previous named driver experience, insurance companies quoted her rates of €1,500-€2,000.
The only company offering a premium under €1,000 were Boxymo who install a telematics box in the car to monitor speed and kilometres travelled. Customers are given a set number of kilometres to travel and their premium may be affected if they go over this.
Siobhan took this option as she is a single mum and couldn’t afford any other company. She was reluctant to install a device in her car, but didn’t see any other viable option.
An online petition to lower car insurance in Ireland has garnered 7,138 supporters already out of a 7,500 total, since it was initiated a couple of months ago.
Darragh Doran began the petition after returning from travelling for 2 years to find his previous NCB of 4 years had expired and he had to pay a high premium of almost €1,600, despite having a full licence.
He said, “I hate paying for overpriced insurance, now they’ve put up the premiums again and no one seems to be stopping them.” Darragh hopes to lobby the government into limiting price increases.
The insurance market in Ireland is closed to European competitors, making it more difficult to shop around. Two Irish companies Aviva and Allianz Insurance will now no longer insure cars aged 14 years or older.
A spokesman from the Irish Brokers Association Brian McNelis warned that prices are set to rise even further in 2016, especially for young drivers. He said a rise of between 8 to 15% was possible.
In the meantime, the Department of Transport have established an interdepartmental working group to examine the costs of car insurance. However it is unlikely to make recommendations for some time.
The costs of owning and insuring a car will outweigh the benefits for many young people in the future.