‘The pricing of insurance products is a commercial matter for individual insurers in which the government does not seek to intervene,’ said treasury minister Harriett Baldwin, in answer to a parliamentary question earlier this month.
Yet, in the autumn statement, the chancellor proposed to reduce motor insurance premiums by removing the right to any compensation for minor soft tissue injuries and increasing the small claims court limit for personal injury claims. Baldwin said ‘the government expects that the insurance industry will pass on savings to consumers’.
This is not the first time the government has had high expectations of insurers. In recent years, a raft of legal reforms has been introduced, yet the insurance industry has failed to live up to its promise to pass on savings to customers through reduced premiums.
If the government’s proposals are implemented, many injured people will not be able to make valid claims and others will not be able to afford the legal help they need to bring genuine claims through the small claims court. There will be an epidemic of cold-calling from claims management companies as they rush to take advantage of vulnerable people who won’t be able to afford legal representation.
Following the autumn statement, only two of the dozens of companies which offer car insurance have made public promises to pass on savings, as far as I am aware. Removing the availability of justice for people who have been injured through no fault of their own is a high price to pay for an expectation which will never be realised.
Jonathan Wheeler, president, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, London N1