In order to address the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic in India, the government has issued various notifications, including a nationwide closure of all public and private establishments (except for essential service providers), which have had a direct impact on the normal functioning of entities, including those in the insurance sector. This article provides an overview of the key notifications and guidelines issued by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian motor insurance framework underwent a variety of key developments in 2019, including the introduction of standalone own damage cover, the extension of the present insurance framework on ads to point-of-sales persons and registered automobile dealerships and the notification of an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act 1988.
Health insurance products have seen an improved uptake recently and there appears to be a significant focus on rewarding policyholders for preventive and wellness habits, with a specific focus on forthright disclosures made in policy documents and advertising material. With changes introduced under amendment regulations and the expected issuance of draft mediclaim guidelines, it appears that a more comprehensive wellness regime will shortly be introduced to the Indian insurance market.
The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) recently notified the Indian Insurance Companies (Foreign Investment) Amendment Rules 2019 and the IRDAI (Insurance Intermediaries) (Amendment) Regulations 2019, which have introduced additional conditions with which insurance intermediaries that have a majority shareholding of foreign investors must comply. The regulations have brought much-needed clarity, but the insurance industry's reaction remains to be seen.
Since 2015, foreign investment in insurers and insurance intermediaries has been capped at 49%. However, many felt that this parity in the foreign direct investment (FDI) limits was unfair, as – unlike insurers – insurance intermediaries are not custodians of policyholders' money. Thus, the recently notified Indian Insurance Companies (Foreign Investment) Amendment Rules 2019 have effectively increased the limit on FDI in insurance intermediaries to 100%.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) recently issued the IRDAI (Regulatory Sandbox) Regulations 2019, which aim to facilitate the creation of a regulatory sandbox in which to test new business models, processes, proposals and applications in order to strike a balance between the orderly development of the insurance sector and the protection of policyholders' interests. Although insurance players are calling the sandbox a game changer, it remains to be seen how much it will be used.
In a recent case, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) provided some useful guidance in relation to a claim assessment by an Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority licensed surveyor. The NCDRC dismissed the insured's contentions, stating that, among other things, the insured had failed to provide the relevant documentation to the surveyor. Thus, the insured had been unable to take advantage of his own wrongdoing.
The account aggregator ecosystem was introduced to solve the problems of data portability in the insurance sector, among others. However, the question of whether the business model is viable will largely hinge on the successful implementation of the consent architecture envisaged under the Master Directions Non-Banking Financial Company – Account Aggregator (Reserve Bank) Directions and the terms of the contractual arrangements which are entered into with the various regulated entities.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority recently issued the Exposure Draft on Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Conflict of Interest) Guidelines 2019, which seek to provide guidance on the conflicts of interest that arise between insurers and other insurance companies or intermediaries which have the same directors.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case between Reliance Life Insurance and the wife of an insured party who had died of a heart attack. Reliance had repudiated the respondent's claim due to the suppression of material facts by the insured, who had failed to provide details of a second policy with another insurer. In its decision, the Supreme Court considered the nature of the disclosure made by the insured and the validity of the ground for repudiation of the claim.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority recently issued the Report of the Committee on the Regulatory Sandbox in the Insurance Sector in India, which proposes to establish a sandbox environment in the insurance sector. According to the report, the sandbox will facilitate innovation in the Indian insurance sector and provide an ecosystem to foster the experimentation required to increase insurance penetration in the market and benefit policyholders. However, reservations remain.
The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 was recently passed in the Lok Sabha. The new bill has been welcomed as it provides much-needed clarity regarding the use and storage of Aadhaar numbers. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority has taken the bill's enactment as a cue to start providing clarity on the collection and storage of customers' Aadhaar data. It is hoped that the bill will be enacted quickly, as it is unenforceable in its present form.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Re-insurance) Regulations 2018 were notified on 12 December 2018 and came into force on 1 January 2019. As well as streamlining filing requirements and processes, the regulations consolidate the existing regulations for life and general reinsurance business into a uniform set of provisions for reinsurance business in India.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India recently introduced changes to the regulations governing motor insurance in India. Under the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, insurance cover for third-party liability is mandatory for all motor vehicles at the time of purchase. However, until recently, this third-party liability insurance had a mandatory one-year cover term and had to be renewed by the policyholder each year.
Although blockchain is relatively new, India has seen a few segmental adoptions of the technology, with some public authorities – including the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India – acknowledging its potential benefits. Further, recent press reports have indicated that some insurers have already started contemplating various ways in which to implement the technology.
In recent years, the Indian insurance sector has been abuzz with the news of new players looking to acquire stakes in insurers and insurance intermediaries. While the Insurance Act 1938 provides for the manner in which insurers may carry out amalgamations and transfers of insurance business, the regulations governing the amalgamation or transfer of an insurance intermediary's business remain scattered and, in some cases, non-existent.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) recently released the IRDAI (Insurance Brokers) Regulations 2018 to revise the norms governing the establishment and operation of insurance brokers in India. The regulations have introduced a myriad of changes which largely appear to bring parity between the norms applicable to insurance brokers and web aggregators, particularly with respect to solicitation through online, telemarketing and distance marketing modes.
The Supreme Court recently upheld the validity of a quantum-only arbitration clause and affirmed that once an insurer has denied liability, arbitration is no longer an option (unless the insurer and insured come to an independent agreement to arbitrate). In its decision, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of reviewing an insurer's declinature letter to properly assess whether liability had been denied or accepted.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has released an exposure draft for revising the IRDAI (Insurance Brokers) Regulations 2013 for comments from stakeholders. Following various representations made by insurance brokers and other stakeholders, the IRDAI issued the IRDAI (Insurance Brokers) Regulations 2018 to repeal the erstwhile 2013 regulations, bringing changes to the earlier provisions and adding to the existing compliance requirements for insurance brokers.
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.