Industry concerned that investigation could be specifically targeting the UK market

Fears are growing that the European Commission's investigations into anti-competitive practices in the insurance sector could be specifically targeted at the UK market.

Concerns have also been expressed that the investig-ation could lead to a Spitzer-style probe into the way brokers are remunerated, as the commission's recent questioning has focused on the way they are paid.

The worries have been voiced as the deadline closed for UK brokers to submit their responses to a questionnaire from the commission.

All major UK brokers are understood to have received the questionnaire asking for details of their business practices, including revenue streams and more specifically contingent commissions.

Brokers reported that the process has required a huge amount of work, with one company describing the questionnaire, which runs to more than 50 pages, as "a book".

Eric Galbraith, chief executive of Biba, said: "This is an EU review, which could end up costing us more, both in terms of the expense of the information gathering process and unnecessary regulation from Europe as a result of the inquiry."

Lord Hunt of Wirral is understood to have travelled to Brussels to question competition commissioner Neelie Kroes personally about the concerns the UK insurance industry has with the financial services inquiry.

He is thought to have sought reassurances that the investigation's focus is not specifically the London market.

Lord Hunt was unavailable for comment as Insurance Times went to press.

Alexandra Kamerling, partner in EU, competition and trade, at law firm DLA Piper, said it was too early to jump to conclusions about the focus of the investigation.

Jonathan Todd, EC spokesman on competition, insisted that concerns surrounding the impact on the UK market were unfounded.

He insisted the sector inquiry was not aimed at any particular region or market.

What the EU asked brokers
The commission's questions included:

  • Have all [your] contingent commissions been abandoned?
  • What factors determine your recommendation of a particular insurer to your client?
  • Has the Spitzer investigation or increased public attention directly or indirectly led to changes of your policy concerning contingent commission agreements?
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