Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Time to put brakes on insurance rip-off

It is undeniable that the insurance industry does face pressures, not least from fraudulent claims which it says total around £900m a year in the UK.

In the circumstances the industry is not going to undersell itself, but there does seem to be a prima facie case that motorists in Northern Ireland are getting a raw deal from insurers, paying £282 a year more on the average policy. In many cases drivers here pay twice what they would in many parts of England. That takes some explaining and the industry is not entirely convincing.

Certainly the NI Consumer Council believes motorists here are being ripped off. It doesn't accept that premiums should be so much higher even given the cited reasons of lack of competition, higher compensation payouts, higher legal costs or the number of uninsured drivers. In the past the levels of car crime - which often were no worse than in metropolitan areas of Britain - were used to explain high insurance costs. The reasons may change but the high premiums do not.

While there may be some merit in some of the insurance companies' explanations, the Consumer Council is right to demand a probe by the Office of Fair Trading into the market and also to ask the Justice Department at Stormont to examine the costs associated with claims through the courts. Living on the margins of the UK we are well used in Northern Ireland to paying over the odds for various commodities and this is another example of how our cost of living is pushed higher and higher.

Margaret Thatcher once famously pronounced that Northern Ireland was as British as Finchley, but it does seem that we are treated as a place apart by the insurance companies, among others.

The Consumer Council can do the motoring public of the province a great service by pursing its campaign with the utmost vigour and deserves widespread support for its online petition against high premiums.

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