Insurance premiums expected to rise after loss-making year (Irish Independent)

04 November 2011

Many insurance premiums were written at a loss last year and premiums for non-life insurance are already starting to rise, the Irish Insurance Federation warned yesterday .

Insurers are being hit by higher claims for motor accidents and for flooding claims on property insurance.

But the second largest general insurer in the country, Quinn Direct, denied reports that it was changing its business model by hiking rates.

Chief executive of the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF), Mike Kemp, said motor insurance premiums had bottomed out in January and were rising.

Motor insurers were now seeing an increase in the frequency of claims. However, Mr Kemp said motor insurers had sought to raise rates last year, but were unable to raise premium levels due to competition.

Property insurance rates were also rising as the industry absorbs the impact of €100m in claims due to severe summer floods. Most of the downward pressure on premiums over the last few years has come from Cavan-based Quinn Direct. Yesterday, Quinn Direct's chief executive, Colin Morgan, insisted the insurer was not raising its rates despite industry reports that it was hiking prices and adopting a more conservative underwriting policy.

"There has been no big change in our approach to writing business. Like any insurance company, we are continuously monitoring our book but by and large we are continuing to compete."

He admitted some parts of the business, such as its commercial fleet business, was seeing higher premiums; but insisted this was part of a regular adjusting of premiums across the business.

Mr Morgan said Quinn Insurance was seeing a rise in cost and frequency of claims.

But he said there had been no major change in the company's reserves policy following last month's breaches of regulatory requirements and investigation by the Financial Regulator.

Founder Sean Quinn was forced to stand down as director and chairman of Quinn Insurance and the regulator required Quinn Insurance to pay €3.25m, the biggest penalty of its kind, with Mr Quinn to pay €200,000.

Mr Morgan said Quinn had one million customers when its private health customers were included, and had a turnover of €1.1bn, which included the UK.