Insurers win access to police information, but still face mounting losses

The ABI is to seek meetings with the Home Office to thrash out the growing problem of who pays for solving insurance fraud.

Faced with rising numbers of fraudulent claims and limited police resources, insurers are spending ever greater amounts to combat crime. This raises questions about the rights and wrongs of private sector companies undertaking police work.

A new agreement between the ABI and police forces will put new heat on fraudsters by streamlining communications between insurers and officers, but also rewards insurers undertaking investigative work with a better chance of a conviction.

Under the scheme, where an insurer has evidence against a claimant, an exemption from the Data Protection Act will allow for a "pretty open exchange of information" with the police, according to ABI anti-fraud manager Debra Weekes.

But, where an insurer just has suspicions, the new agreement gives it easy access to police information. For example, in a household claim following a burglary, the insurer can ask to examine the original crime report. If the customer refuses consent for the insurer to see this, the insurer can refuse to pay the claim.

Weekes said the agreement with police forces, expected to take effect this autumn, was a "significant step forward".

But the ABI now wanted "a high level debate" with the Home Office on how fraud should be investigated and who should pay for the work.

She said insurers were spending increasing amounts on fighting fraud.

"They do an awful lot of work and pretty much present the police with a fully-investigated package."

Despite spending money doing the work, the police would continue to concentrate on other crimes, she said.

"They are never going to put insurance fraud at the top of their list of priorities."