ACM: insurers are allowed to introduce joint scheme for handling vehicle-damage claims

Insurers in the Netherlands are allowed to introduce a scheme that will enable them to handle cases involving damage to vehicles in a faster and more simplified manner. Currently, consumers that have third-party liability insurance (in Dutch: wettelijke aansprakelijkheidsverzekering or WA) often have to file claims with the insurer of the party that caused the damage. Soon, consumers will also be able to turn to their own insurers. In the latter situation, the insurers involved will settle the claims among themselves. Following several discussions with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) about this new scheme, the Dutch Association of Insurers (VvV) will implement several changes to its operational regulations. These will make it clear that consumers have a choice, and these regulations will also make it easier for new insurers to participate in the scheme.

Michiel Denkers, Director of ACM’s Competition Department, adds: “Insurance companies thus create a new pathway for consumers with third-party liability insurance to file vehicle-damage claims. This will reduce irritation among consumers as well as the red tape involved in claims regarding damage to their vehicles caused by others. We welcome that move. However, consumers should continue to have the freedom to file a vehicle-damage claim with the third-party’s insurer directly. In that process, they can choose to be aided by an independent advisor or mediator. In addition, this scheme cannot be a barrier to entry for new insurance companies. They must be able to participate in this scheme on the basis of fair and objective criteria. The VvV has now incorporated both of these points in its new regulations.”

Freedom of choice laid down in operational regulations

ACM finds it important that the pathways for filing vehicle-damage claims (either directly with the other party’s insurer or with one’s own insurer) are easy-to-find and obstacle-free. This means that, immediately after the damage has been reported, insurers must inform consumers of these two pathways, and also provide sufficient information about them. The VvV confirms that the consumers’ freedom of choice is a cornerstone of its policies. Consumers can have confidence in their damage claims being handled smoothly and carefully, irrespective of the pathway they choose. In addition, the VvV underlines the importance of granting new insurance companies access to the mutual handling system. That is why the operational regulations will be adjusted, which are binding on all affiliated insurance companies. The new scheme is expected to take effect in mid-2021.

ACM’s oversight of markets

ACM wishes to ensure that markets work well for people and businesses. It enforces compliance with the competition rules in different ways. In this situation, ACM pointed out the possible anticompetitive concerns, and, in consultation with the market participants involved, these concerns were quickly taken away. Six months after the introduction of this scheme, ACM will check whether the improvements work well.