It would have been wrong for the High Court to single out RSA for an industry-wide practice, but that doesn’t make that practice right
The insurance industry dodged a bullet this week, with the High Court ruling that RSA’s repair arrangements were legal. If the decision had gone the other way - as was widely expected - RSA could well have launched a tranche of law suits against its competitors, many if not most of which have similar arrangements. That could have seen the motor insurance industry embroiled in a series of tit-for-tat legal actions lasting years or even decades, with the long-suffering motorist once again picking up the bill.
RSA rightly feels vindicated in the face of some pretty vicious criticism from fellow insurers, but it is hard to see a winner here. Yes, it would be wrong for RSA to be singled out for punishment for an industry-wide practice, but that doesn’t make that practice right in itself - legal or otherwise.
RSA chief executive Adrian Brown sounds an optimistic note, suggesting that the decision provides a clear legal framework for the industry to move forward. On this basis, RSA is set to announce a series of bilateral agreements, and hopefully other insurers will follow suit.
A more radical solution would be that proposed by Sabre chairman Keith Morris: he believes every insurer should pay its own repair costs regardless of fault. This would give them a financial interest in keeping costs down. Insurance Times has called for this solution before, and support for the proposal seems to be gathering momentum. Without wholesale reform on this scale, the industry can only ever be making the best of a bad job.
● Peter Blanc has burst into the headlines with energy, enthusiasm and a cheery smile. The Oval boss may be a newcomer to the industry’s C-suite, but he has already proved himself something of a smooth operator. As the consolidators’ second generation really gets into gear, he’s one to watch. Saxon East met him: see this week’s interview.