Motor insurers agree to limit data exchange

Data_exchange_between_insurance_companies

OFT accepts formal commitments after motor insurers agree to limit data exchange

The OFT has accepted formal commitments from six insurance companies and two IT software and service providers to limit the data they exchange between them.

The following companies have agreed to the commitments following an OFT consultation: Insurers Ageas Insurance Ltd (formally Fortis Insurance Ltd), Aviva Insurance UK Ltd, AXA Insurance UK plc, Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Ltd, RBS Insurance Group Ltd, and Zurich Insurance plc – UK Branch; and IT software and service providers Experian Ltd and SSP Ltd.

An OFT investigation identified an increased risk of price coordination among motor insurers using a specialist market analysis tool provided by Experian called Whatif? Private Motor.

The Experian tool allowed insurers to access not only the pricing information they themselves provided to brokers, but also pricing information supplied by other competing insurers.

The OFT warned the firms that, because insurers were able to access information about their competitors’ future pricing intentions, the information exchanged through WhatIf? Private Motor raised competition law concerns, in particular that it could potentially be used to coordinate on price.

The formal commitments address these concerns by ensuring that the companies will exchange pricing information through the analysis tool only if that information meets certain principles agreed with the OFT. These principles require the information, if less than six months old, to be anonymised, aggregated across at least five insurers and already ‘live’ in broker-sold policies.

Having accepted the commitments, the OFT has ended its investigation and will not be proceeding to a decision on whether or not the Competition Act has been infringed.

Clive Maxwell, Executive Director at the OFT, said:

‘The exchange of future pricing data between competitors has the potential to dampen competition, preventing customers from getting the best value.

‘We have been able to address our concerns by accepting commitments that reflect the specific features of this market. These limit data sharing while ensuring a certain level of information remains available to potential new competitors, in particular smaller firms, to encourage entry into and healthy competition in the market.’

NOTES

  1. Further information on the OFT’s investigation is available on the case page Investigation into the private motor insurance sector
  2. The Competition Act 1998 prohibits anti-competitive agreements and conduct amounting to an abuse of dominance within the UK. The Chapter I prohibition covers anti-competitive agreements and concerted practices that have the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition in the UK or a part of it and which may affect trade in the UK or a part of it.
  3. The Act allows the OFT to accept binding commitments from those under investigation, although generally not for secret cartels (such as price fixing, bid rigging, establishing output restrictions or quotas, and sharing and/or dividing markets), nor in cases involving serious abuses of a dominant position. The formal acceptance of such commitments, which must address the OFT’s competition concerns, requires the OFT to close its investigation into the conduct addressed by the commitments.
  4. In the light of responses to its first consultation in January 2011, the OFT held a second consultation in September 2011 on amended commitments offered to the OFT by six of the seven insurers party to the investigation. These are Ageas Insurance Ltd (formally Fortis Insurance Ltd), Aviva Insurance UK Ltd, AXA Insurance UK plc, Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company, RBS Insurance Group Ltd and Zurich Insurance plc – UK Branch. The remaining seventh insurer is bound by the terms of its immunity agreement. The commitments offered by Experian Ltd and SSP Ltd were not subject to an amendment.
  5. This decision by the OFT to accept binding commitments does not include any statement as to the legality or otherwise of the conduct by the parties under investigation either prior to acceptance of the commitments, or now that the commitments are in place.
  6. The OFT is separately due to report on private motor insurance premiums in December 2011.

 

Insurance Guardian comment – you might like to know the RBS Insurance Group includes Direct Line and Direct Line for Business, Churchill, Privilege, Green Flag, NIG, UKI Partnerships.

A cartel is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices. The OFT encourage you to confess your own cartel.