(Source: European Commission)
The European Commission invites comments on commitments offered by Insurance Ireland, an association of Irish insurers, to address competition concerns regarding access to its Insurance Link information exchange system.
On 14 May 2019, the Commission opened a formal investigation into Insurance Ireland’s conduct. In June 2021, the Commission issued a Statement of Objections outlining its preliminary view that Insurance Ireland had breached EU antitrust rules by restricting competition in the Irish motor vehicle insurance market.
The Commission preliminarily considered that Insurance Ireland arbitrarily delayed or in practice denied access to its Insurance Link information exchange system, which contains information important to be active in the motor vehicle insurance market in Ireland. The Commission preliminarily considered that restricted access to Insurance Link placed certain companies at a competitive disadvantage on the Irish motor vehicle insurance market in comparison to companies that had access to the information exchange system. According to the Commission’s preliminary assessment, this acted as a barrier to entry, reducing the possibility of more competitive prices and choice of suppliers for consumers seeking motor vehicle insurance in Ireland.
The offered commitments
To address the Commission’s concerns, Insurance Ireland has offered the following commitments:
To make the access to the Insurance Link information exchange system independent from any 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 independent Application Officer. 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 offered commitments would remain in force for 10 years. Their implementation will be monitored by a monitoring trustee who will report regularly to the Commission.
The Commission invites all interested parties to submit their views within one month from the publication of a summary of the commitments in the Official Journal. The full text of the commitments will be available on DG Competition’s website.
Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’) and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement prohibit anticompetitive agreements and decisions of associations of undertakings that prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU’s single market. The implementation of this provision is defined in the Antitrust Regulation (Regulation (No) 1/2003), which can also be applied by the national competition authorities.
Article 9(1) of the Regulation (No) 1/2003 enables associations under investigation by the Commission to offer commitments in order to meet the Commission’s concerns. Article 27(4) of Regulation (No) 1/2003 requires that before adopting a decision pursuant to Article 9 of Regulation (No) 1/2003, the Commission shall provide interested third parties with an opportunity to submit observations on the offered commitments.
If the market test indicates that the commitments address the competition concerns, the Commission may adopt a decision making them legally binding on the association. Such a decision would not conclude that there is an infringement of EU antitrust rules, but would legally bind the association to respect the commitments it has offered.
If an association breaks such commitments, the Commission can 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.