A KILDARE businessman who has seen his insurance payment almost double in the last year without any claim against him has called on the Government to “get its finger out” to reform the industry.
“They could give a tax break while they’re bringing in the legislation. The amount of an easing might be the difference in letting someone go or not,” said David Clinton of Tricky Tricksters play zone in Ladytown Business Park in Naas.
Mr Clinton decided to go public after his insurance premium was raised from €9,600 to just over €18,000 – at a time when he hasn’t made a claim in over five years.
“I’ve had to change my opening hours, from 9 til 6 to 11 to five. I used to have 14 full time employees, now there’s only me and seven part-timers,” he said.
In the business for 22 years, Mr Clinton has seen his insurance premiums rise from £500 in 1997 to €18,040 in 2019, but mentioned a colleague in Navan who is faced with a demand for almost €30,000.
“The government needs to provide her with finance in the form of a tax break, rates reduction, no interest loan or subsidy to allow her to pay this premium to continue in business or 15 people will be on the dole,” he said.
“In one month a €10,000 subsidy or grant to her would have been saved in social welfare payments alone. She need to be supported,” he pointed out.
In recent months Mr Clinton has been instrumental in forming a lobby group for his industry called Play Leisure Activity Ireland (PALI) from over 50 play and activity centres nationwide.
“We have set up to act as a voice for the play, activity and leisure sector in seeking reform with regard to insurance. Each of us have committed to a common code of practice and safety regimes so that there is a level playing field for consideration when dealing with insurers,” he explained.
“We have lobbied county councils and received unanimous support from eight councils to date on a motion calling for the setting up of a Garda Insurance Fraud Unit, the establishment of a Judicial Council to review awards in particular for soft tissue injuries and also for the book of quantum to be revised and adjusted in line with the UK and Europe,” he said.
To illuminate this he explained that awards in Ireland for soft tissue injuries are more than four times the average payout in the UK, and that’s even after the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) was set up.
So far, PALI membership has grown to over 60 and they envisage the membership to exceed 100 before the end of the year, representing close on 640,000 people in the leisure sector.
“Seven play centres within the last eight months have closed directly as a result of spiralling insurance hikes,” he pointed out, before squarely laying out who he thought was primarily to blame.
“The net beneficiaries are the solicitors and barristers who have been openly advertising their services for personal injury claims, who have not reduced their fees since the height of the boom, the brokers who claim 10 per cent commission in Ireland, the brokers in the UK who claim up to 25 per cent commission and their fees as well, the underwriters who speculate with the premiums again and again by investing and reinvesting and who make payouts on average somewhere between three to five years after a claim,” he declared.
“Also the government who net a charge of five per cent of every premium renewal each year made up of three per cent stamp duty which is a tax and a two per cent Insurance Compensation Fund (ICF) levy which we all have to pay for another seven to 10 years to bail out PMPA, Quinn Insurance and Setanta,” he continued.
In a recent study by PALI it was determined that Over €5 million had been paid in premiums by its members over the last five years. Of this €1 million had been reserved for claims, yet only €200,000 of that €1 million has been paid out in this period.
In the last 12 months €860,000 was paid for play centre premiums and only €90,000 was paid out in claims with a total reserve of €120,000.
“This is a scandal. What happens to the rest of that money?” he asked.
“Insurance companies are not really engaging, and the Government hasn’t got its ducks in a row with regard to legislation,” he pointed out.