In August, the new solicitors indemnity fund was in danger of falling into chaos with insurers offering vastly different premiums for the exactly the same risk.
One broker in the northeast told of one client, a sole practitioner, who had the choice of premiums ranging from £2,000 to £10,000. Another broker gave the case of a four-partner firm which was offered quotes from £11,000 to £50,000.
Alan Eyre, director of Manchester broker Alec Finch, said: “The insurance industry seems to want to shoot itself well and truly in the foot.”
Much of the confusion was blamed on the newness of the market, which was created when the Law Society decided to scrap the Solicitors' Indemnity Fund, which had the monopoly on professional indemnity (PI) cover for firms in England and Wales.
The head of the IIB, Andrew Paddick, was also in the news. He demanded that the GISC open its books to scrutiny as the price for its exemption from the Competition Act.
The call came after the GISC lodged its formal notification with the OFT to get the go-ahead to become a compulsory body for all general insurers. Paddick, whose organisation is opposed to the GISC, said his demands were justified as the GISC was seeking to create a regulatory monopoly.
He demanded full disclosure of the GISC's meetings, funding and constitution and said unless full disclosure was forthcoming the insurance industry would not be able to challenge potential conflicts of interest that may arise over GISC decisions.
Also in August the OFT threw out complaints from a small band of brokers who complained about insurers setting up cheaper direct operations.
The brokers, who included John Lynch of Insurance Advisory Services and Ian Holt of Colney Insurance Brokers, argued that insurers were abusing their dominant position through dual pricing and were subsidising their direct arms through over-priced broker products. Norwich Union and Royal & Sunalliance were named.
In letters to insurers and the complainants, the OFT said: “Products sold through brokers will not always be directly comparable with products sold through insurers' direct operations and it is to be expected that any difference in the level of cover provided will affect the premiums offered.”
The complainants were accused of using wild examples rather than the norm and the OFT pointed out that some price differentials actually favoured the broker channel, which still accounted for the bulk of the motor market.
August was also the time when thousands of brokers and intermediaries were faced with the prospect of renegotiating their arrangements with premium finance houses if they signed up with the GISC.
Its rule G28 calls for intermediaries to make “adequate provision for any debt which is unlikely to be received from the debtor”.
Industry experts were divided about the implications of this, but at worst it was thought it could result in small brokers and intermediaries having to pay a higher rate for their premium financing.
And also seeking clarity was uninsured loss recovery provider Helphire. The company, which was not part of the ABI agreement on credit hire rates, got a court date to clear up its position in the aftermath of Dimond v Lovell.
The case decided that credit hire agreements were only enforceable if they conformed with the Consumer Credit Act.
Helphire, whose previous policies did not conform with the act, wrote to the head of the civil courts division asking for clarification of the daily “spot rate” for the recovery of replacement car costs.
It wanted to unlock the £82m of debt from 20,000 credit hire cases it had, which were bogged down in the court system.