The Government must stand up for business owners and people who are self-employed against the Insurance Industry and the Banks.
In Britain, the Financial Conduct Authority is seeking a court judgement on behalf of businesses to clarify the business disruption issue. She questioned why the Government is not taking similar action here and clarified that Sinn Féin has written to the Central Bank on the matter.
Addressing Minister Donohoe in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Conway-Walsh said:
Businesspeople throughout this country are wondering whether the Insurance Industry is working with this Government; or is this Government WORKING FOR the Insurance Industry?
These insurance companies are fighting tooth and nail to cripple small businesses by flatly refusing to honour claims made under business interruption clauses, even where the policy document explicitly states the business is covered in instances where national government or local government instruct temporary closure.
There are many business owners who consider this immoral behaviour, as well as theft, by insurance companies. When you take out business interruption insurance, you do so in good faith with the insurer. It is an agreement that they will cover you in the event of loss of income following a disaster. Additionally, some are refusing to refund, or even part refund, premiums while the business is closed.
The Minister continues to report that he is engaging with Insurance Ireland. We are running out of time. Businesses are making critical decisions about their futures and the future of their employees. Insurance claims and premiums have a major bearing on their decision making.
It was precisely for potential scenarios such as this that Sinn Fein legislated for The Multi-Party Actions Bill 2017 which would have been a game changer enabling groups of cases that share characteristics sufficiently to allow them to dealt with collectively. This Government did not support such legislation. I believe this was an error and again assured that the power remained with the Insurance Industry. Currently, the only real option is for a test case to proceed and related cases to follow subsequently on the basis of that precedent.
Justice delayed is justice denied for many small businesses that don’t have the financial capacity to take on the might of the Insurance Industry.
Along with the Insurance Industry, the Banking Sector have been allowed to continuously fail our citizens. Banks are charging among the highest interest rates in the EU; deferring mortgage and loan payments – but insisting on higher repayments once the deferment period is over; telling customers that their mortgage approval no longer exists because their place of work has been temporarily closed. Under the current payment breaks interest will continue to accrue and compound thereafter increasing the outstanding balance by thousands of euros.
Standing up for our citizens, for our small and medium businesses, for our country means we must stand up against the unfair business practices of financial companies.