Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Insurance Ireland to ensure access to its data sharing platform

(Source: European Commission)

The European Commission has made commitments offered by Insurance Ireland, an association of Irish insurers, legally binding under EU antitrust rules. Insurance Ireland must ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to its Insurance Link information exchange system, which contains important data for companies offering motor vehicle insurance services in Ireland.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Insurance Ireland has offered commitments which will ensure access to its data sharing system on a fair, transparent, objective and non-discriminatory basis. Today, the Commission has made this binding. The commitments will restore the level playing field in the Irish motor insurance market and ease the entry of new players. As a result, consumers may benefit from a larger choice of suppliers. This is a good result since today’s economy increasingly relies on data sharing and access to data has become key in many markets.”

The Commission’s concerns

In the Statement of Objections issued in June 2021, the Commission outlined its preliminary view that Insurance Ireland arbitrarily delayed or in practice denied access of non-members to its Insurance Link information exchange system, thereby restricting competition in the Irish motor vehicle insurance market.

Insurance Link’s data allows insurers to better assess customers’ risk profiles and consequently to price insurance policies for motor vehicles. By restricting access to its platform, Insurance Ireland placed certain companies at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis its members who had access to the platform. This acted as a barrier to entry, particularly for insurers based in other Member States, ultimately reducing the possibility of more competitive prices and choice of suppliers for consumers seeking motor vehicle insurance in Ireland.

The commitments

To address the Commission’s concerns, Insurance Ireland offered certain commitments. Between 4 March and 4 April 2022, the Commission market tested those commitments and consulted interested third parties to ascertain that they would remove the competition concerns. In light of the outcome of this market test, Insurance Ireland made several amendments to the initially proposed commitments. The amendments further specify the profile and role of the operationally independent Application Officer that will handle access requests, and introduce further clarifications as regards the implementation and the monitoring of the commitments.

The Commission found that Insurance Ireland’s final commitments will ensure market participants’ access to the Insurance Link platform, and decided to make them legally binding on Insurance Ireland. More specifically, Insurance Ireland has committed:

  • To make the access to the Insurance Link information exchange system independent from membership to Insurance Ireland.
  • To change the access criteria to Insurance Link and make them fair, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory and to apply them uniformly to all applicants, from Ireland and other Member States.
  • To establish a new Insurance Link application procedure with a defined timeline that will be handled by an operationally independent Application Officer, who is of a sufficient level of seniority and has experience in the insurance sector acquired in a professional capacity. Applicants who have been refused access will be able to appeal to the Oversight Committee, an independent appeal body.
  • To establish a cost and usage based fee model and to ensure that a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory fee will be charged to Insurance Link users.
  • To ensure that the criteria for becoming member of the Insurance Ireland association will be fair, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory.

The final commitments will remain in force for 10 years. Under supervision of the Commission, a trustee will be in charge of monitoring the implementation and compliance with the commitments.

Background

Insurance Ireland is an association bringing together companies active in the insurance sector in Ireland. Insurance Ireland administers and offers to its members the Insurance Link information exchange system, which contains information useful for detecting and combating fraud in the Irish motor vehicle insurance market.

In July 2017, the Commission conducted unannounced inspections in the motor insurance market in Ireland. In May 2019, the Commission opened a formal investigation into Insurance Ireland’s conduct for a possible breach of Article 101 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’). In June 2021, the Commission issued a Statement of Objections outlining its preliminary concerns.

Article 101 TFEU  and Article 53 of the European Economic Area Agreement prohibit anticompetitive agreements and decisions of associations of undertakings that prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU’s Single Market.

Article 9(1) of the EU’s Antitrust Regulation (Regulation No 1/2003) allows the Commission to conclude antitrust proceedings by accepting commitments offered by an association. Such a decision does not reach a conclusion on whether EU antitrust rules have been infringed but legally binds the association to respect the commitments. A policy brief on commitment decisions under Article 9 is available here.

If Insurance Ireland were to breach the commitments, the Commission could impose a fine of up to 10% of the association’s worldwide turnover or of the sum of the turnover of its members active on the relevant market, without having to prove an infringement of EU antitrust rules.

More information, including the full text of the Article 9 Commission Decision and the full version of the commitments will also be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number AT.40511.

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