Around five insurers are expected to offer Irish customers refunds on their motor insurance

French insurer AXA has confirmed that it plans to issue a €33 (£28.72) refund for each of its motor insurance policies in the Republic of Ireland, reflecting that the coronavirus-related national lockdown has resulted in fewer claims, reported The Irish Times.

The insurer has set aside around €20m (£17.4m) in order to provide a rebate across its 600,000 Ireland-based motor policies; this equates to around 30% of the total market in the Republic of Ireland, which has 2m policies collectively, wrote The Irish Times.

The refunds are designed to compensate motor customers for staying at home and driving less – resulting in fewer claims – during the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown measures.

AXA in Ireland confirmed that its retail car, motorcycle, van and taxi customers would receive their refunds in the coming weeks.

Phil Bradley, AXA Insurance Ireland chief executive, said: “We are very happy to support this industry initiative, which will benefit our customers in the Republic of Ireland. AXA is very mindful of the impact of this crisis on individuals and businesses across the state as we continue to do everything we can to support our customers and the community at this time.”

Last week, insurance insiders suggested that five insurers – AXA, Allianz, FBD, RSA and Zurich – plan on returning premiums to their Irish motor customers. The Irish Times reports that this will cost around €37.5m in refunds and discounts.

Aviva, on the other hand, has confirmed that it will not be providing rebates related to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Being pro-active

According to NS Insurance, the step to implement motor premium rebates came after the country’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe urged companies to be “pro-active and generous” to their policyholders during the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to the fact the motor sector enjoyed a profitable year in 2019 and is likely to benefit from reduced claims as fewer people are on the roads.

He told NS Insurance: “In my recent engagement with [Irish insurance trade association] Insurance Ireland, I had called upon their members to act on motor premium to reflect the new realities of Covid-19.

“I wish to acknowledge that a number of the leading motor insurers in the Irish market have signed up to commitments on premium reliefs for motor customers.

“This is an important step by the sector and I also appreciate that these insurers will keep the matter under review to see how best they can serve the needs of their customers.

“Obviously, it is for each insurer to look at its own situation and customer base, but I stress the importance for them to take a longer-term perspective and be generous with their customers at this time, reflecting the recent profitability of the motor insurance market.”

Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of Insurance Ireland, added: “We are now six weeks into the Covid-19 restrictions on movement and it is clear that road usage levels have fallen significantly.

“While the duration of these restrictions is still uncertain and it is still too early to fully assess the financial impact on the motor insurance sector, but recognising the unique challenges in the Irish market, insurers have agreed to address the issue by signing up to a set of core principles.”

Support measures

Alongside providing these motor refunds, AXA has also undertaken a series of support measures in Ireland to aid its customers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This includes teaming up with car manufacturer Renault to provide complimentary cars that will be insured by AXA for up to two months for doctors and nurses returning from abroad to support Ireland’s public health service, the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Existing AXA customers will be able to add additional drivers to their policies free of charge, to help policyholders who may need a neighbour or relative to drive their car to obtain shopping or medical supplies. Telematic rules will also be relaxed because of the lack of mileage and trips undertaken by customers and volunteers can get a free extension to their cover for the delivery of food and essential items to the elderly or vulnerable people.

The insurer is also offering financial support to those experiencing monetary difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic by offering flexible payment terms, as well as allowing customers to pay premiums up to 28 days after their renewal date, rather than before the date of renewal.

AXA has additionally waived midterm cancellation charges and applied pro-rata refunds, facilitated temporary suspension or reduction of cover options and for taxis, the firm has introduced a new facility to reduce cover to social and domestic pleasure use, with a 60% rebate for the period.

UK refunds

Admiral was the first insurer in the UK to offer its motor customers a refund related to the current coronavirus shutdown.

Last week, the company confirmed that it will be issuing an £110m automatic refund to all its car and van insurance customers.

The refund, which will apply for all cars and vans insured with Admiral as at 20 April, will automatically award £25 for each car and van covered by the insurer – Admiral said this amounts to 4.4m vehicles. Customers should automatically receive their refund by the end of May.

However, the ABI confirmed that it is not initiating an industry-wide scheme like the one launched by Insurance Ireland; decisions around premium refunds will be left to individual firms.

A spokesperson said: ”Your motor insurer can advise on any options that may help reduce your premium, or if you are worried about being able to continue to pay premium instalments. Pricing decisions will be a matter for individual firms. However, in a competitive market any reduction in cost pressures over the course of 2020 can clearly benefit consumers.”