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A window on the world of O.R.?
The “invisibility cloak” of science fiction is now fact, albeit with limitations. O.R. could claim to have had the power of invisibility for years, though not by desire; what we want is the opposite - a high-visibility jacket! Indeed, part of the mission of the OR Society is to help make our presence more visible. But perception involves both the observed and the observer. And all of us have open and hidden parts.

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Posted on 09 December 2011

Financial Services

Insurers limit data sharing

Insurance companies share a good deal of data, but will restrict this for motor insurance after criticism from a trading watchdog.

The companies that have agreed to this are insurers Ageas - formerly Fortis - Aviva, Axa, Liverpool Victoria, RBS and Zuric, along with IT software and service providers Experian and SSP. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said in January that it was consulting on a draft agreement text and confirmed that it has accepted the commitments from these companies. It has, therefore, ended an investigation and will not proceed to decide whether or not the Competition Act has been infringed.

The OFT had found an increased risk of price co-ordination among insurers using a specialist market analysis tool provided by Experian called Whatif? Private Motor. The tool, which was run by Experian, provided brokers with details on insurance premiums, including any price hikes that insurers were introducing which had not yet gone live. But it was also possible for insurers who contributed to the tool to use it to gain information on their competitors' pricing policies, including their underwriting practices and which areas of the market they were particularly competitive in. It enabled them to monitor premium increases being made by other firms before the information was in the public domain.

The formal commitments ensure that the companies will exchange pricing information through the analysis tool only if it meets principles agreed with the OFT. If the information is less than six months old, it must be anonymous, aggregated across at least five insurers and already "live" in broker-sold policies.