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EU insurance watchdog calls for more power after dividend divide

LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union’s insurance watchdog called for extra powers to ensure fair competition after it failed to impose a common approach to suspending dividends during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gabriel Bernardino, chair of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) said insurers have relatively robust capital buffers, but it had been necessary to “advise caution” after market volatility in March.

Insurers were asked by EIOPA to suspend dividends until the impact of the pandemic became clearer.

“While the effect of this statement has been positive, we have seen some differences in approaches by market players and also by some supervisors,” Bernardino told the European Parliament.

Germany’s financial regulator BaFin allowed Allianz to pay a dividend. French insurer Axa also paid a dividend.

“This is a clear issue for the level playing field in the internal market, especially in a crisis, and it is a lesson that should encourage the strengthening of EIOPA’s powers,” Bernardino said.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Alexander Smith

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