THE INSURANCE LAWS (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2015
An Act further to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 and the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 and to amend the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999.
Short Title and commencement
This Act may be called the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act, 2015. It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 26th day of December, 2014.
Features of The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act, 2015
1. Sec 2(1A)
”Authority” means the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India established under sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999;’;
2. Properties in India not to be insured with foreign insurers except with the permission of Authority (Sec 2CB)
- No person shall take out or renew any policy of insurance in respect of any property in India or any ship or other vessel or aircraft registered in India with an insurer whose principal place of business is outside India save with the prior permission of the Authority.
- If any person contravenes the provision of sub-section (1), he shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to five crore rupees.
3. Empowerment of IRDAI
The Act will entrust responsibility of appointing insurance agents to insurers and provides for IRDAI to regulate their eligibility, qualifications and other aspects. It enables agents to work more broadly across companies in various business categories; with the safeguard that conflict of interest would not be allowed by IRDAI through suitable regulations. IRDAI is empowered to regulate key aspects of Insurance Company operations in areas like solvency, investments, expenses and commissions and to formulate regulations for payment of commission and control of management expenses.
It empowers the Authority to regulate the functions, code of conduct, etc., of surveyors and loss assessors. It also expands the scope of insurance intermediaries to include insurance brokers, re- insurance brokers, insurance consultants, corporate agents, third party administrators, surveyors and loss assessors and such other entities, as may be notified by the Authority from time to time.
4. Health Insurance [Sec 2 (6c)]
The amendment Act defines ‘health insurance business’ inclusive of travel and personal accident cover and discourages non-serious players by retaining capital requirements for health insurers at the level of Rs. 100 Crore, thereby paving the way for promotion of health insurance as a separate vertical.
5. Payment of annual fee by insurer (Sec 3A)
- An insurer who has been granted a certificate of registration under section 3 shall pay such annual fee to the Authority in such manner as may be specified by the regulations.
- Any failure to deposit the annual fee shall render the certificate of registration liable to be cancelled.
6. Promoting Reinsurance Business in India
The amended law enables foreign reinsurers to set up branches in India and defines ‘re-insurance’ to mean “the insurance of part of one insurer’s risk by another insurer who accepts the risk for a mutually acceptable premium”, and thereby excludes the possibility of 100% ceding of risk to a re-insurer, which could lead to companies acting as front companies for other insurers. Further, it enables Lloyds and its members to operate in India through setting up of branches for the purpose of reinsurance business or as investors in an Indian Insurance Company within the 49% cap.
7. Provisions regarding investments of assets of insurer carrying general insurance business (Sec 27B)
- All assets of an insurer carrying on general insurance business shall, subject to such conditions, if any, as may be prescribed, be deemed to be assets invested or kept invested in approved investments specified in section 27.
- All assets shall (except for a part thereof not exceeding one-tenth of the total assets in value which may subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be prescribed, be offered as security for any loan taken for purposes of any investment or for payment of claims, or which may be kept as security deposit with the banks for acceptance of policies) be held free of any encumbrance, charge, hypothecation or lien.
- Without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Authority by sub-section (5) of section 27A nothing contained in this section shall be deemed to require any insurer to realise any investment made in conformity with the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 27 after the commencement of the Insurance (Amendment) Act, 1968, which, after the making thereof, has ceased to be an approved investment within the meaning of this section.
8. Prohibition of investment of funds outside India (Sec 27E)
No insurer shall directly or indirectly invest outside India the funds of the policyholders.
9. Strengthening of Industry Councils
The Life Insurance Council and General Insurance Council have now been made self-regulating bodies by empowering them to frame bye-laws for elections, meetings and levy and collect fees etc. from its members. Inclusion of representatives of self-help groups and insurance cooperative societies in insurance councils has also been enabled to broad base the representation on these Councils.
10. Power to restrict payment of excessive remuneration (Sec 31B)
No insurer shall in respect of insurance business transacted by him, shall pay to any person by way of remuneration, whether by way of commission or otherwise in excess of such sum as may be specified by the regulations.
11. Obligation of insurer in respect of insurance business in third party risks of motor vehicles (Sec 32D)
Every insurer carrying on general insurance business shall, after the commencement of the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act, 2015, underwrite such minimum percentage of insurance business in third party risks of motor vehicles as may be specified by the regulations:
Provided that the Authority may, by regulations, exempt any insurer who is primarily engaged in the business of health, re-insurance, agriculture, export credit guarantee, from the application of this section.
12. Sec 39
The amendments provide for an easier process for payment to the nominee of the policy holder, as the insurer would be discharged of its legal liabilities once the payment is made to the nominee.
13. Consumer Welfare (Sec 45)
Further, the amendments to the laws will enable the interests of consumers to be better served through provisions like those enabling penalties on intermediaries / insurance companies for misconduct and disallowing multilevel marketing of insurance products in order to curtail the practice of mis-selling. The amended Law has several provisions for levying higher penalties ranging from up to Rs.1 Crore to Rs. 25 Crore for various violations including mis-selling and misrepresentation by agents / insurance companies. With a view to serve the interest of the policy holders better, the period during which a policy can be repudiated on any ground, including mis-statement of facts etc., will be confined to three years from the commencement of the policy and no policy would be called in question on any ground after three years.
14. Insurance agent or intermediary or insurance intermediary not to be director in insurance company (Sec 48A)
No insurance agent or intermediary or insurance intermediary shall be eligible to be or remain a director in insurance company:
Provided that any director holding office at the commencement of the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act, 2015 shall not become ineligible to remain a director by reason of this section until the expiry of six months from the date of commencement of the said Act:
Provided further that the Authority may permit an agent or intermediary or insurance intermediary to be on the Board of an insurance company subject to such conditions or restrictions as it may impose to protect the interest of policyholders or to avoid conflict of interest.
15. Transitional Provisions i.e. determination of rates, salaries etc. (Sec 64ULA)
- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Part, until the rates, advantage and terms and conditions laid down by the Advisory Committee under section 64UC are de-notified by the Authority with effect from such date as the Authority may by notification in the Official Gazette determine, and the rates, advantages and terms and conditions are decided by the insurer concerned, the rates, advantages and terms and conditions notified by the Advisory Committee shall continue to be in force and shall always be deemed to have been in force and any such rates, advantages and terms and conditions shall be binding on all the insurers.
- He authority shall, in consultation with the Central Government, prepare a scheme for the existing employees of the Tariff Advisory Committee on its dissolution, keeping in view the interests of such employees on such terms and conditions as it may, by order, determine.
16. Restrictions on opening of new place of business (Sec 64VC)
No insurer shall, after the commencement of the Insurance (Amendment) Act, 1968, open a new place of business or close a place in India or outside India or change otherwise than within the same city, town or village, the location of an existing place of business situated in India or outside India, except in the manner as may be specified by the regulations.
17. Robust Appellate Process (Sec 110)
Appeals against the orders of IRDAI are to be preferred to SAT as the amended Law provides for any insurer or insurance intermediary aggrieved by any order made by IRDAI to prefer an appeal to the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT).
18. Capital Availability
In addition to the provisions for enhanced foreign equity, the amended law will enable capital raising through new and innovative instruments under the regulatory supervision of IRDAI. Greater availability of capital for the capital intensive insurance sector would lead to greater distribution reach to under / un-served areas, more innovative product formulations to meet diverse insurance needs of citizens, efficient service delivery through improved distribution technology and enhanced customer service standards. The Rules to operationalize the new provisions in the Law related to foreign equity investors have already been notified on 19th Feb 2015 under powers accorded by the or dinance.
The four public sector general insurance companies, presently required as per the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 (GIBNA, 1972) to be 100% government owned, are now allowed to raise capital, keeping in view the need for expansion of the business in the rural and social sectors, meeting the solvency margin for this purpose and achieving enhanced competitiveness subject to the Government equity not being less than 51% at any point of time.
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