When insurers set their own rules


The law to regulate “the activity of insurance intermediaries” results in a tedious exercise at the National Council, where the insurance lobby lays down the law. This endorses the current situation, ie self-regulation.

Insurers intend to continue to define themselves the rules that they intend to apply or not.

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It’s a long story in Parliament. For years, interventions have been made to echo the bad mood of consumers harassed by phone calls from insurance brokers for Medicare. Two years ago, the branch decided to set up a form of self-regulation with rules of good conduct. But it works for some and not for others.

Finally, a motion from the Council of States was accepted to bring order to this sector. This resulted in a federal bill “on the regulation of the activity of insurance intermediaries” concocted by Alain Berset’s Federal Department of the Interior. This was debated on Monday and we can say that it is the insurers of Parliament who are holding the knife by the handle on the subject.

Two failed attempts

However, two attempts on their part failed. The first was to be able to define their own sanctions, as proposed by Lorenz Hess (C/BE), also president of the Visana fund. Criminal justice would have been subsidiary. For legal reasons, the PLR ​​did not follow in the bourgeois camp. The second aimed to exclude the complementary insurance sector from the law, as Philippe Nantermod (PLR / VS) wanted for the PLR. Even Lorenz Hess felt it would be “impossible to be believable” by doing this, as the problems would linger. Benjamin Roduit (C/VS) for the commission recalled: “The volume of commissions in complementary insurance is much higher than in basic insurance, both per contract concluded and in total, more than 240 million francs for this concerning supplementary insurance, out of a total of 300 million”. Removing the supplements from the law would have almost emptied it of its meaning.

No “imposed regulation”

For the rest, the left has not succeeded in changing the potestative formula which opens this law: “Insurers may enter into an agreement to regulate…” By 125 votes against 68, the right has therefore in some way extended the principle current state of self-regulation. According to Benjamin Roduit (C/VS) for the commission: “The principle of self-regulation must be respected, it would be counterproductive to introduce here regulations imposed by the authorities”.

A two-thirds quorum

In addition, the law contains a special mechanism: if a group of insurers representing two-thirds of the insured so requests, the Federal Council could, by means of an ordinance, make the regulation compulsory for the entire branch. Otherwise, everyone will continue to do as they wish. “If there is no longer a number of insurers representing at least 66 per cent of the insured who conclude the branch agreement, pointed out Pierre-Yves Maillard (PS / VD), then there is no longer any of solution. In principle, according to this legal basis, we return to the situation we have known for a decade and we will say that Parliament has done nothing to solve this problem”.

No cold calling

In concrete terms, the law provides for the prohibition of cold-calling by telephone (i.e. with people who have never been insured under the seller’s insurance or who have not been so for a long time), the training of intermediaries , a limitation of their compensation, the establishment and signature of a meeting report with the client. Those who do not respect these rules can be penalized up to a fine of 100,000 francs.

Brokers of exempt insurers

Finally, the right has also succeeded in exempting brokers who have an employment contract with insurance. In his project, Alain Berset recalled that it was a question of first regulating an activity and not the status of persons. “The definition of the insurance intermediary, specified the Federal Councilor, includes the employees of the insurers who deal with prospecting for new insured persons, whereas the insurers wish to exclude their own employees from their agreement, which could raise naturally problems…”.

“Serious interference”

But for Benjamin Roduit (C / VS), on behalf of the majority of the committee: “If this provision also targeted the employees of a company, it would be a serious interference in the remuneration of staff”, specified Benjamin Roduit for the committee. The National Council has decided by 109 to 84 that only external intermediaries will be concerned. This clearly reflects the weakness of this regulation for insurance intermediaries. Insurers have managed to exclude their employees from the law!

The project goes to the Council of States.

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