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INSURANCE : PARTIAL EXEMPTION FROM COMPETITION RULES CONTINUES.

Certain specific cooperation agreements in the insurance sector will continue to enjoy a block exemption from competition rules until 2017, under a regulation adopted by the European Commission, on 24 March. The text enters into force on 1 April and is valid until 31 March 2017.

The current Block Exemption Regulation (BER), which expires at the end of March 2010, authorises the exchanges of statistics and the creation of insurance and reinsurance pools. These provisions are being maintained because certain types of information exchange can be justified to allow insurers to assess risks accurately and because pooling is important to ensure that all risks can be covered.

The main changes to the exemption on information exchange are as follows: a new right of access to the results of the information exchange for customer and consumer organisations, except where public security reasons preclude such access; and clarifications to the scope of the exchange of information covered by the BER.

Under certain strict conditions, the new BER also exempts pools (common coverage of risks by insurance companies), which cover either new' risks or fall below certain market share thresholds if they cover risks that are not new'. The approach used to calculate market share is changed from the previous text to bring it into line with other general and sector-specific competition rules (taking into account not only gross premium income earned in the pool by participating companies but also outside the pool). The definition of new risk' is also broader, covering risks the nature of which has changed so materially that it is not possible to know in advance what subscription capacity is necessary to cover it.

The Commission excluded from the new BER agreements on standard policy conditions and on security devices, which are not specific to the insurance sector.

"The block exemption continues to be justified for pools and certain types of information exchange necessary for the industry to be able to carry out its business. [...] The Commission, together with the national competition authorities, will see to it that the industry does not use the exemption as a blanket protection and will enforce competition rules where and whenever necessary," said Joaquin Almunia, Commission vice-president in charge of competition policy.

The regulation is available at www.europolitics.info > Search = 269213

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Publication:European Report
Date:Mar 26, 2010
Words:379
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