Government regulation of claims management companies has been successful so far

Andy Wigmore, policy advisor to the Claims Standards Council (CSC) says he has only received one complaint in the last five months about the practices used by claims management companies. Compare that with the ten a day he was receiving prior to the regulation of claims management companies by the Ministry of Justice.

It is impossible to judge the full extent of how claims management regulation has impacted the industry just three months into the new regulatory system, but many believe he has had some minor victories.

Two years ago finding a claims farmer outside the local accident and emergency unit was a common occurrence. Today, the practice has been stamped out in up to 90% of hospitals thanks to new regulations brought in under the auspices of by Mark Boleat, head of claims management regulation at the MoJ.

It is the regulator’s practical approach to regulation which has won him fans in the personal injury sector. Steve Thomas, claims director of Zurich UK says: “Mark Boleat has done a very good job. It was the right time for regulation, and he was the right person to do it.”

When he was first appointed Boleat said he would not seek to force a major crackdown, but would take a targeted approach. This has resulted in a more practical position which Boleat illustrates by highlighting the stupidity of some companies operating in the sector.

On cold calling he rightly points out: “If people do not understand what cold calling in person means, they are probably doing it, and if they ask for clarification it is because they want a long explanation that they can seek to get round.”

Referral fees had been a major bone of contention prior to regulation. The regulator has moved to work in partnership with the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) to stop legal firms from buying dubious cases from claims management companies.

“If there is malpractice in the acquisition of business, then the solicitor taking the business is almost certainly breaching the rules governing solicitor’s conduct, as well as the introducer breaching our rules,” says Boleat.

The regulator has also put the spotlight on claim management companies’ involvement in contrived accidents. Expect this to become more prominent in the national media in coming months. Working with the SRA, the Insurance Fraud Bureau, and the police the regulator wants to stamp out staged accidents in the UK.

Investigations are already underway, and preparations for a major media campaign are being developed.

It will take time to assess Boleat’s legacy, but it is clear that his approach has left the sector in a more robust state ready for the enforcers to come along and crack down.