Yet another company collapse and still no action, so it's time the FSA was involved, says Andy Cook
Claims farmer Life Repair Group was placed in administration this week. Following the collapse of Claims Direct and The Accident Group, it begs the question: how many more times does this have to happen before government steps in and sorts out the access-to-justice problem.
Many thousands of people have pinned their faith on claims management companies only to have their hopes dashed.
Of course, there are people making spurious claims among this number and no one will lose sleep over their plight. However, there are many people who have no choice, now that legal aid is an operation at the fringes, but to throw themselves on the mercy of the conditional fee system.
Something needs to be done. As a society that prides itself on justice for all, we cannot have a situation where only the rich can afford, with any confidence, to have their claims represented fairly.
And it is in the interests of the insurance industry for government to regulate this area too.
For those underwriting after-the-event and before-the-event legal expenses policies, regulation should lead to increased levels of confidence.
And for those at the sharp end, in claims defence, it provides an opportunity to increase influence, through lobbying the government, and to have a more predictable foe.
There are moves to regulate the claims management sector. And a working party has been set up by the government, involving the Office of Fair Trading and the Law Society, among others.
But solutions look someway off and, as the past two years have proved, thousands of people can be left stranded and insurance companies can be destabilised.
I would like to see the FSA become more involved in the discussions. After all, consumers are the ones being affected by these companies peddling financial services products (insurance policies). And it is consumers whom the FSA should be protecting.
Interestingly, the Personal Injury Federation (the trade body for claims farmers) has come up with some ideas well worth looking at. For instance, the federation recommends banning enticement advertising. So companies would not be allowed to say, 'just last week Mr Smith got £10,000 for a whiplash claim etc'. No figures would be allowed.
The platform for debate is set. But it needs some pace injected into it, before more people are let down and another insurance company is exposed.