On 5 August 2014, the European Commission issued a questionnaire to seek views on the functioning and future of the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation (Regulation 267/2010). The current block exemption expires on 31 March 2017. The Commission must report to the Council and European Parliament by March 2016. The Commission has invited views, information and evidence on relevant market developments, the extent of use of the block exemption and on the impact of the block exemption. In particular, it seeks views on the policy options of renewing, partially renewing or not renewing the current block exemption. Responses are invited by 4 November 2014.

The block exemption provides an automatic exemption from the prohibition of cartels and anti-competitive agreements under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union for agreements and arrangements which comply with the terms of the block exemption.

As was the case when the Commission reviewed the previous incarnation of the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation, the Commission’s starting point will be that the block exemption should not be renewed. This is because the Commission takes the view that sector specific block exemptions are generally unnecessary, and that all industry sectors should rely on the general guidelines and block exemptions which the Commission has adopted for all industry sectors.

Therefore, in order to preserve the benefits of legal certainty conferred by the block exemption, it will be important for the industry to explain again what is special and unique about the insurance sector that it requires a specific block exemption.

The current block exemption covers joint compilations, tables and studies, so enabling the exchange of statistical information (calculations, tables and studies) subject to the specified conditions; and common coverage of certain types of risks (co(re)-insurance “pools”), subject to market share thresholds and other specified conditions.

Regarding “pools”, the Commission has taken the view that this covers all forms of co(re)-insurance other than ad hoc subscription, for example line slips, consortia and binding authorities. If the block exemption is continued, it is likely to be clarified that “pools” covers arrangements initiated by the broker as well as those initiated by the insurer.