Insurance industry accused of leaving Northern Ireland business in the lurch

Insurers have been accused of leaving Northern Ireland businesses in the lurch over Covid-19, a Stormont Committee has heard.

Alistair Ross from the British Association of Insurers faced questions about “intransigence” over payouts from his sector at the Economy Committee this morning.

The committee chair, Sinn Fein’s Caoimhe Archibald, questioned if the insurance industry was “exploiting ambiguity” as lockdown has brought many businesses to a standstill in recent months.

The DUP MLA Gordon Dunne also questioned why some businesses who had claims refused were now being told they can’t buy pandemic insurance.

He added that insurers could not expect their reputations to be the same after the pandemic has passed.

Mr Ross said most businesses’ insurance policies did not cover pandemics, pointing out it was not considered a likely risk even six months ago.

He added a High Court case with the Financial Conduct Authority would bring more clarity later this summer.

He maintained it was “unfortunate” that the vast majority of businesses would not be covered, and that insurance was a regulated product that was usually bought after professional advice.

Mr Ross did not have a specific figures for insurance payouts for businesses in Northern Ireland since lockdown restrictions began, but offered to follow up on any specific cases with the committee.

Asked why it was so difficult for firms to get pandemic cover now, Mr Ross said it was inevitable that the value of premiums would go up if the “possibility becomes a probability” of disruption caused by Covid-19..Mr Dunne said this would be “most disappointing” but not surprising for the ordinary man on the street.

Ms Archibald asked Mr Ross why the insurance industry appeared to be the one sector that “wasn’t playing ball” in helping businesses to survive the pandemic, after years of paying expensive premiums


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