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CMCs, Claimants and Insurers

The Government had planned to undertake ‘a fundamental review of the regulation of claims management companies (CMCs)’ starting early in 2016. The review will include proposals for the introduction of a cap on the charges that CMCs can apply to their customers, and will consult on how this will work in practice. What impact could the review have on CMC’s, Claimants and both Before The Event and After The Event Insurance?

It is yet to be seen if this review will indeed go ahead given more recent developments, but as an After the Event Insurance provider, we await the next assault aimed at those pursuing claims for personal injury and loss.

Regulation of claims management companies has continued to evolve since the introduction of the Compensation Act 2006. Now the Legal Ombudsman’s remit enables it to consider complaints from customers about the services provided by regulated CMCs, leaving the Claims Management Regulation Unit (CMR Unit) at the MoJ to deal with regulation of the industry.

This increased level of regulation has very recently shown its teeth with the first penalty issued under new powers allowing regulators to fine a CMC specialising in finding NIHL cases £220,000 after hundreds of complaints were made about speculative calling. The Regulator had also fined a CMC almost £570,000 for high-pressure tactics to get customers to make PPI claims. Just this week the Regulator has fined another CMC specialising in finding NIHL cases £850,000 for making nearly 6m nuisance calls in only seven months.

Now, we ATE Insurance providers do not seek to defend those who make these nuisance calls in any way but since when have "nuisance calls” been worth more than taking someone’s life? Compare the fines above with some reported fines in October 2015 for breaches of Health & Safety rules which resulted in loss of life.

  • Rettenmaier UK Manufacturing Limited were fined £200,000 with costs for an employee’s death.

  • Two global companies were fined £275,000 and £375,000 respectively with costs in addition, after a worker was killed and another seriously injured.

There is a real drive from some to stamp out CMC’s (and After The Event Insurance) altogether. Many smaller firms rely upon them for work. They do not have the large budgets of the bigger firms, but to saturate daytime TV with adverts, does this not also add to the perceived compensation culture?

Insurance companies complained bitterly about referral fees at the same time as being the biggest recipients of them.

Law firms will continue to pay for marketing services. Many of them are simply not geared up to do this for themselves and certainly since the introduction of CMC’s. But what choice do they have?

If fees are capped, will this limit the amount some law firms can spend on marketing? Will more CMC’s then be brought "in house” and operate directly under a law firm, as many do now in any event? Perhaps this will be even more acute if the Small Claims limit does go up, as has now been stated by the Chancellor, but that is another enormous story in itself.

There are huge blurred lines between what are nuisance or cold calls and Non Opt in / TPS data/calls. As per usual the few ruin it for the many. Not all CMCs are the same. The reality is that law firms and CMC’s will adapt, as they did following the ban on referral fees. Some will thrive whilst others will fall by the way side. But will anything actually change for Claimants?

To us an After the Event Insurance provider, it seems that the right of redress and access to justice for those genuinely injured is being continually eroded.

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