Vehicle owners in the Maldives are be required to have third party motor insurance under new regulations coming into force today or otherwise face paying a potentially indefinite number of fines from police, transport authorities have warned.
Assessing the new law, which will have direct impacts on police and insurance providers in the country, the head of the Transport Authority of Maldives said that a “wait and see” approach would be taken before judging the efficiency of the new regulations and how they are being undertaken. The authority said it nonetheless held reservations about the actual insurance regulation as well as the capacity of private and state institutions to ensure motorists were correctly registered.
However, the Maldives Police Service has said it does not expect the motor insurance regulations to severely impact officers in carrying out their duties due to an potential increase in workload.
Several key insurers in the country have meanwhile announced measures to try and keep up with demand. These measures have included extending office hours across the last week and launching an online purchasing of insurance coverage.
The introduction of the new law requiring all owners of two and four wheel motor vehicles on the country’s inhabited islands to have third-party insurance was ratified under the previous government in the form of an amendment to the Land Transport Act.
The insurance bill was required to be brought into force three years from the start of the Act, together with regulations stating that the mechanisms for investigation of accidents, identifying the cost of damage and claim for damage should be made public.
Speaking to Minivan News, Transport Authority Chair Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said that concerns remained over the original legislation amendments, as well as the capacity of private companies to ensure members of the public would be correctly registered in time.
“My question is whether [insurance companies] can finish registering people on time,” he said. “There was a little concern about this, but I have spoken with the companies [this week] and they have said that staff had been sent out to islands to assist with registering. Insurance groups have been extending their office hours to meet demand.”
Nafiz said that in order to speed up the registration process for the country’s motorists, customers would be initially able to obtain coverage for a vehicle providing they present valid documentation proving their ownership. He added that customers would then be able to finalise registration at a later date with insurers as the law comes into place today.
Nafiz also pointed to what he believed were “problems” within the regulation calling for mandatory insurance that needed to be addressed as a result of the law coming into effect without further study.
“The law itself has some problems; any driver found by police not to be insured will have to pay a MVR750 fine. However, there is no limit on the number of times police can charge a person without insurance,” he said. “In one hour even there can be several violations against the same vehicle. This puts drivers at the mercy of police.”
Nafiz added that insured motorists should nonetheless carry official proof of their insurance policy.
Transport authorities claimed that the new regulations also created challenges for police themselves, with any accidents having to be reported to officers within seven days of occurring.
“Traffic police will then be required to investigate the case and produce an accident report,” he said, adding that a copy of the report would then be sent to the insurer. “We will wait and see how efficient this will be. Police have agreed they will go to accidents to investigate.”
Nafiz also criticised the previous administration for some of the challenges presently being experienced over implementing the mandatory insurance, claiming the former government has undertaken “no work” on the matter after amending the Land Transport Act.
With the regulations coming into place today, Police Spokesperson Hassa Haneef said that officers were already performing random checks on vehicles across the country to check drivers had the correct registration and documents.
“We will be performing checks on a daily basis to ensure vehicle are registered according to the proper rules and regulations,” he said. “This won’t be much different to an officer’s existing work.”
Nafiz said that transport authorities had met with three to four insurers n the country in order to outline a standardised annual cost for vehicle coverage order with the implementation of a mandatory motor insurance policy.
“We managed to get agreement with every company to charge the same amounts in terms of maximum costs. They can charge lower if they like, but the companies have agreed to a maximum amount,” he said. “We have been using TV and radio to try and notify the public about this change.”
Nafiz claimed that under the new insurance scheme, the most that can be claimed was a total of MVR 100,00(US$6500) an amount designed to cover charges related to injury or vehicular damage. Under this programme, up to 60 per cent of this total amount could be used to cover expenses linked to injuries sustained during an accident.
According to Nafiz, another challenge had been faced in terms of agreeing the basic levels of coverage afforded by the standard vehicle insurance policy – discussions that he claimed had become “heated” at times.
It was proposed that the insurance would cover damages of over MVR 2,500 (US$160). However, from research we conducted, most of the damage caused in vehicle accidents would be to plastic covers on a bike or a bulb on a headlight. These were the type of things we found garages were dealing with,” he said. “So if owners are having to pay MVR 500 (US$32) in costs to repair damage, what is the benefit they are getting from insurance?”
Nafiz contended that such a system would serve only to encourage garages inflating charges to MVR2,500 per bill. In response, he claimed insurers agreed on offering a second option, where a package would be offered that covered damages to vehicles under MVR 2,500. However, such a package would require a customer to pay higher premiums on their policy in return.
Last minute demand
Whilst the new regulations may have led to an influx of custom for some companies, several insurers speaking to Minivan News have said that they face challenges themselves after being increasingly inundated with “last-minute” demand from motorists.
Allied Insurance Company of the Maldives, one of a number of groups providing the third-party vehicle coverage in the country, said that it had seen a large number of customers continuing to request coverage today even after the regulations came into force.
Ahmed Riyazi, Information Systems Manager for the company said that over the course of the last week, demand for vehicle insurance rose from 150 customers a day to 1,000 clients a day.
As well as a surge in custom, the company claimed that it faced other challenges in providing services to customers on the country’s outer atolls.
“Geography has certainly been challenge we have faced [with providing motor insurance], but we are also seeing a lot of late demand from customers,” he said.
In an attempt to overcome the problem, Allied today announced the launch of an online payment service from its website that allows customers to purchase both motor and travel insurance coverage instantly.
Amidst strong demand for vehicle insurance, insurer Amana Takaful has said it has also experienced people “rushing to get a policy at the last minute” as the new regulations were launched.
Imran Ramzan, Assistant Manager of Marketing for Amana Takaful, said the company had as of Sunday (October 7) prolonged its open hours till 10:00pm to try and meet customer demand.
“Even now, demand remains very high as it seems most people have waited until the last minute to arrange insurance for their vehicles,” he said. “This strong amount of last minute demand has created a bottleneck, but we are working with our customers to ensure they are all registered correctly and on time,” he said.