The latest from the Editor’s keyboard, on the law of unintended consequences after the introduction of GDPR.
The recent announcement by the Irish government that a proposed database of insurance claimants is shelved is another step backwards on the long, hard road of Irish compensation claims reform. The reason why multiple claims may not be shared between Garda, government agencies and insurers? Good ol` GDPR, that fantabulous EU law which protects all our data.
Of course GDPR had a worthy purpose, who doesn’t want to protect their sensitive address, financial or personal data, or have that embarrassing photo from Uni Freshers Week, where you’re mating with a traffic cone, removed from Google?
But the reality is that we trade ALL our privacy the moment we accept a listening smartphone, tablet, Facebook, Twitter app or Alexa device into our homes. If you actually read the Ts&Cs then you’ll discover that you have given consent to have all your data downloaded, recorded and passed onto `carefully selected third party companies.’ For all I know, your giant seven-foot wide TV and smart electricity meter could be listening in for keywords and flogging them to Ikea or Aldi – I literally have no clue and neither do you.
But are we bothered? Mostly no, we are not. Largely because that data is anonymous, it isn’t published anywhere, our various preferences on the Just Eat app aren’t shared with the local Police. Not yet anyway.
But would most of us agree a database of claimants is a useful thing? I think so. Why shouldn’t those who repeatedly make insurance claims, some of which may be rejected quite rightly, on the grounds that they look like attempted fraud, have their names shared with Police forces, benefits claims agencies, plus insurance brokers and underwriters too?
To see this database knocked on the head simply because the data cannot be shared, is ridiculous. Especially in the Republic of Ireland, where compensation claims culture is out of control, according to many media commentators, politicians and a few retired judges too.
Childrens play centres, pubs, hotels, country fairs, even charity events, are all going out of business, as `trip & slip’ claims are being rewarded with settlements in excess of 50,000 euros. In the words of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective; “One could run a lucrative law practice with very little else.”
The recent Maria Bailey case highlighted how some social media research, plus old fashioned journalism, can undo the statements that are filed in pursuit of a PI claim. But not every claim is investigated so thoroughly, and a national database would be a useful tool in identifying chancers who want to play the system.
After years of losses in Ireland, which has seen some companies pull out of the market, insurance companies made a profit on motor cover in 2018 – largely by jacking up premiums by a hefty margin. But a 31m profit doesn’t stack up against a 757m loss over the previous four years. Other insurers and brokers may exit Ireland, leaving the rest to operate without true competition – what will happen to premiums then?
If Ireland really wants affordable insurance long term then the government has to grasp the nettle and stop the compo gravy train. Every careful road user is paying 1000 euros extra for the inflated claims submitted by the careless few, after a bump in Dunnes stores car park. Every small business is trying to find 15-20K a year because some individuals are creaming off a handy 50K deposit on a house, simply for falling over a doormat outside a hotel.
New legislation is required, urgently. A cap on minor injury claims payouts would be common sense. Convictions for lying in court are needed, not just a shrug and an attitude that `well the insurance companies can afford it.’ Another essential part of this process is identifying the serial offenders, who keep on submitting bogus claims and it is a sad fact of life that GDPR forbids this type of data sharing.
To spare the blushes of fraudsters, who might be named and shamed, the vast majority of Irish citizens will end up paying over 3000 euros a year to insure a typical fmaily car. That can’t be right. It cannot continue.