The IBER exempted certain types of cooperation in the insurance sector from EU competition law, subject to certain conditions. It applied to joint compilations, tables and studies and to co-insurance and reinsurance pools.

For joint compilations, tables and studies, the IBER permitted the exchange of information which assisted insurance and reinsurance companies to develop a better understanding of insured risks and to assess them more accurately. The IBER also permitted insurers and reinsurers to pool resources to cover new or large risks. If the conditions of the IBER were met, then insurers were automatically protected.

However, the IBER expired at the end of March following the European Commission’s decision not to renew it, despite the petitions of certain industry bodies. The IBER is just one of a number of sector specific exemptions which have not been renewed over recent years. Instead, the European Commission’s approach seems to be for the same rules to be applied across different sectors and for the specific sector guidance to fall away.

But what does this mean for insurers and reinsurers? The advantage of the IBER was that if the conditions were met, companies would have certainty that they were compliant with EU competition laws. The removal of the exemption puts the onus on individual insurers and reinsurers to carry out their own self-assessment against cross-sector guidelines to ensure that they are compliant. As the IBER is indicative of what was the European Commission’s policy until very recently, it does continue to provide useful guidance for companies to inform their self-assessment, but its expiry does remove legal certainty and requires a greater degree of review to ensure that arrangements remain compliant.