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Commission to examine legal obstacles to cross-border trade in insurance

European Commission - IP/13/74   31/01/2013

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 31 January 2013

Commission to examine legal obstacles to cross-border trade in insurance

The European Commission is set to examine barriers to cross-border trade in insurance products caused by different contract laws in the EU’s Member States, after today launching a call for experts to look into the problem. The expert group will identify to what extent contract law differences hinder cross-border distribution and use of insurance by European businesses and consumers. For example, a citizen moving to work in another EU country may be forced to take out a new car insurance policy, or face problems having their rights under a private pension plan recognised if taken out in another EU country. And businesses with branches in several EU countries may be forced to get separate policies under different conditions in each country instead of a single policy for all their property. The group will report at the end of 2013, after which the Commission will decide on any possible follow-up actions.

This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of our Single Market which is at the heart of cross-border trade. But there is still work ahead of us, for example in the insurance sector where the level of cross-border trade in insurance products remains very low: just 0.6% of all motor insurance premiums and 2.8% of property insurance premiums are offered to customers across EU borders,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “Differences in contract law may hinder cross-border trade for both small- and medium-sized companies and consumers buying across borders as well as for some insurance companies. As this is a very complex area, we are asking experts to analyse the situation and report back to us before we decide on possible next steps.”

The Expert Group on Insurance Contract Law will bring together key stakeholders, including insurance providers, representatives of consumer and business users, academics and legal professionals. It will assist the Commission in examining whether differences in insurance contract laws hinder cross-border distribution and use of insurance products by businesses and consumers. If this is indeed the case, the Expert Group will also identify which types of insurance are most affected. It is likely to focus on insurance products of a greater economic significance, such as:

  • Motor and travel insurance, which consumers and businesses are most likely to buy or use on a cross-border basis;

  • Life insurance which could serve as private pensions for citizens. This analysis is part of the Commission Agenda for Adequate, Safe and Sustainable Pensions announced in 2012.

The Expert Group will hold monthly meetings and will report on its findings at the end of 2013. Based on this report the Commission will decide whether further analysis in this area is necessary.

Background

On 11 October 2011, the European Commission proposed an optional Common European Sales Law to boost trade and expand consumer choice in areas outside financial services (IP/11/1175, MEMO/11/680). On 21 September 2011 Vice-President Viviane Reding met with leaders of European insurance companies to start a dialogue with the insurance sector about the possible added value of an optional European Insurance Contract Law (MEMO/11/624).

The establishment of the Expert Group is a follow-up to this meeting and concerns raised by stakeholders during the consultation on a "Green Paper on policy options for progress towards a European contract law for consumers and businesses" which preceded this proposal (IP/10/872). In particular, insurance representatives pointed out that it was currently not possible to offer uniform insurance products across the EU based on a single European legal framework. They noted that differences in insurance contract laws generated additional costs and legal uncertainty in cross-border trade in insurance products.

The European Parliament subsequently called on the Commission to examine the situation in the insurance sector in more detail (EP Resolution 2011/2013/(INI)).

The members of the Expert Group will be selected in a competitive selection procedure, which the Commission launched today.

For more information

European Commission – contract law: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/contract/index_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Justice Directorate General Newsroom:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/news/intro/news_intro_en.htm

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)


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