As the EU gives the UK a further extension for Brexit and a General Election looks ever-more likely, the Insurance Times Fraud Charter panel were concerned how that could affect incoming legislation

If the UK is subjected to a general election, which is looking more and more likely, the timetable for the Litigants in Person (LiP) Portal could be virtually impossible to meet.

Since the Fraud Charter met in September 2019, this article has been written and rewritten many times to reflect the UK’s fast-changing political situation. But one thing that remains unchanged is that a winter election has not been confirmed… yet.

There has been talk of an election for months. It would appear that after prime minister Boris Johnson was forced to ask for a deadline extension, which was granted last week, he will once again push for an election in December 2019.

It means the deadline for the UK to leave the EU has been pushed back to 31 January 2020.

Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has gone on record to say that he would only agree to a December election if the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit was taken off the table. 

But, one major talking point of recent Fraud Charter meetings has been the LiP Portal, being built by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) as part of the whiplash reforms in the Civil Liability Act. The portal is due to begin testing this month (October 2019), with a roll-out date of April 2020.

Concerns over the deadline have been raised before, but now with the prospect of an election looming, that deadline could become a lot more difficult to achieve.

MedCo director Susan Brown, member of the LiP Portal steering group, claimed that if an election were to take place, the April deadline would be very hard to hit.

She said: “Civil servants have said that an election would make that timetable difficult to meet. It is already very difficult, but I think it will be near enough impossible. There are still decisions to be made on statutory processes which need to go to an operating parliament.”

Donna Scully, director at Fraud Charter sponsor Carpenters Group, reiterated her fear that the nature of the portal will make fraud worse. Plus, the flow of information on progress on the LiP Portal from the MIB appears to have stopped.

She said: “We haven’t had any updates from the MIB in a long time. We are all concerned about that. 

“This portal is probably going to make fraud worse. We have heard that from the Insurance Fraud Bureau and from most of us around this table and those involved in fighting fraud, because there are going to be less people there on the portal, etc.

“But I heard that the feedback from the MIB is that this isn’t designed to be fighting fraud.”

In an interview, MIB chief executive Dominic Clayden said the portal was just seen as a claims platform.

Lack of ‘simple’ checks

It is understood that the portal does not have IP identification measures or other “simple” checks that would help to identify fraud.

Brown said fraud experts at a workshop on the portal couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

“I was at that workshop, and it had a lot of fraud specialists from various insurers and they were a bit taken aback by the sort of things that were being missed, which are fundamental but easy to be done. IP addresses, for example. That would be a massive advantage if they were monitored.” 

But, while Brown said that an election would make finishing the portal by April unachieveable without the measures being discussed, she says that no-one else in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will admit it.

“That is the frustrating thing,” she said. “If we knew we had more time, we could all start thinking about it properly, but because everyone is racing forward to meet a completely unrealistic implementation date, there are still a lot of questions still standing.”

So, what did the Charter suggest?

Carpenters Group’s Alan Hayes, legal director, who is also on the Portal Steering Group with Brown, believes that more time should be allowed for the portal to be finished.

He said: “Everyone thinks April is going to be a struggle, so why doesn’t everyone accept now that it is going to go back, which will give them a lot more time to get those measures in.”

Biba’s head of technical services, Mike Hallam, said the portal in its current state is an opportunity missed.

“Fraudsters are going to be looking at this new portal, trying to work out how best to utilise it, and if there are not many fraud measures in there, then it is going to be pretty easy for them,” he said.

“So, I think it is an opportunity missed. I think the fraud measures could have been brought in a lot more.”

So while the current timeline seems to be a struggle, and an impossible task to some, will the MoJ delay the roll-out date?

There has not been much communication to suggest so. Therefore, The Fraud Charter panel will have to wait to see how tests go before they can expect to see any feedback and re-evaluation of the timeline, if at all. It seems that a lot of insurers who were supportive of the legislation have been left frustrated with the execution of a fundamental part.