There were a number of interesting developments in the Indian insurance industry in 2017, including a rapid increase in the number of insurers, new forms of online commerce and evolving business processes. From a regulatory perspective, 2017 also saw a continued overhaul of the existing insurance regulatory framework, with a slew of new regulations being introduced and existing guidance being amended and updated.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has recently been receiving requests to allow private equity funds to acquire a majority stake in Indian insurers. In response to such requests from private equity funds, venture funds and alternate investment funds, the IRDAI released new guidelines to facilitate and regulate private equity funds' investment in insurers as investors and promoters.
By way of a May 2017 order, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India set up the Reinsurance Expert Committee to make recommendations for, among other things, the efficient implementation and operation of the order of preference for cessions specified under the Branch Office Regulations. The committee recently released its report, providing its analysis and recommendations on the terms of reference prescribed under the order.
The draft Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill 2017 has recently attracted significant attention. This is mainly due to the objections raised by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), among other parties. Although the exact nature of the IRDAI's objections to the bill are unclear, a balance may need to be struck between the powers of the existing sectoral regulators and the proposed Resolution Corporation.
As the Indian insurance market develops and matures further, Indian insurers and insurance intermediaries will aim to introduce public issues and list on recognised stock exchanges in order to raise more funds from the public and provide liquidity to their existing shareholders. Companies looking to be initial public offering ready should focus on ensuring optimum regulatory compliance and rectifying any identified compliance issues, which will go a long way in simplifying the process of listing.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India recently notified the Motor Insurance Service Providers Guidelines to identify and regulate the role of automobile dealers in distributing and servicing motor insurance products. This move to recognise the role of automobile dealers gives legitimacy to existing practices of solicitation and servicing of motor insurance.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India recently set up a committee to make recommendations for the efficient implementation and operation of the order of preference for cessions specified in Regulation 28(9) of the Branch Office Regulations. The committee report is eagerly awaited by the insurance industry, as it is expected to clarify the implementation of Regulation 28(9) and is likely to affect Indian insurers' reinsurance programmes in future.
Following a number of representations made by various stakeholders, and due to the need to update the existing health insurance framework, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India recently released new regulations and guidelines. The revised regulatory framework seeks to encourage greater internal accountability on the part of insurers, strengthen innovation in product design and promote wellness.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India recently replaced the 2009 corporate governance guidelines with the Guidelines for Corporate Governance for Insurers in India. The 2016 guidelines seek to incorporate relevant changes introduced by the Companies Act and consider other relevant changes in the insurance sector in order to provide an appropriate corporate governance regime for Indian insurers.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Registration of Indian Insurance Companies) (Seventh Amendment) Regulations 2016 have introduced a number of key changes to the existing regulations. These key amendments have provided welcome clarifications and will help to encourage investment in the insurance sector and promote growth and expansion therein.
Until recently, the 2006 Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) Guidelines on File and Use Requirements for General Insurance Products governed the procedures and processes for introducing, modifying and withdrawing general insurance products. The procedures and processes have now significantly changed with the introduction of the IRDAI's revised guidelines, which will come into force on April 1 2016.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) recently released new draft regulations clarifying that commission and remuneration paid to insurance agents and insurance intermediaries will continue to be regulated and subject to the limits specified by the IRDAI. While some stakeholders view the proposed payment structure as more liberal, others believe that there is scope for further liberalisation.
The insurance sector has witnessed sweeping changes to its regulatory regime since the beginning of 2015. The most recent additions are the guidelines on the term 'Indian owned and controlled' issued by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. While the guidelines shed some light on certain grey areas surrounding the recent regulatory changes in the insurance sector, further regulatory clarity is needed.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority recently released draft regulations on the issuance of other forms of capital by insurers. While these draft regulations are seen as progressive, they contain certain inherent restrictions and limitations. As such, if implemented in their present form, they may run contrary to the recent amendments to the Insurance Act, which aim to encourage and facilitate increased investment in the insurance sector.
The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India recently issued rules and guidelines for insurers wishing to establish insurance businesses in special economic zones. However, the way in which the guidelines and rules will be implemented, and the enthusiasm with which domestic and global insurance industry players will receive this new means of carrying out insurance business, remain to be seen.
The insurance regulatory regime has experienced sweeping changes in recent months, but certain aspects are still unclear, including how foreign investment in Indian promoters will be calculated. As such, the insurance industry is eagerly awaiting further clarifications and amendments in order to finalise investment plans and determine how the recent reforms will be applied.
In order to implement the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2014, the Ministry of Finance has ratified the Insurance Companies (Foreign Investment) Rules 2015, which provide insurers and insurance intermediaries with much-needed clarity regarding increases in foreign investment. However, further clarifications and amendments are needed and, until then, it may be difficult to implement the rules and recent press note.
In a recent National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission case, the insured informed his insurer that his vehicle had been stolen three months after the theft. The insurer repudiated the claim on the grounds that the significant delay in notification was a violation of the insured's policy. The national commission ruled that any delay in notifying the police or an insurer after a vehicle has been stolen is fatal to a claim.
The long-awaited increase in permitted foreign holdings in an Indian insurance company from 26% to 49% is now law. However, rather than becoming law through the usual legislative process, the reform became law through an unusual and temporary device: an ordinance. This places an unwelcome question mark over the resilience of this otherwise welcome reform.
The Allahabad High Court has issued perhaps the sternest order ever issued against an insurer. It directed the insurance industry regulator to examine every policy issued by SBI Life Insurance Company Limited and, if any policy was issued in breach of the file and use procedure and regulations, to discontinue all of SBI Life's policies if appropriate.