EUROPE – The European Commission is set to examine "barriers" to cross-border insurance pension products caused by different contract laws among EU member states.

The Commission said its expert group on insurance contract law would identify to what extent contract law differences hindered cross-border distribution and the use of insurance by European businesses and consumers.

According to Brussels, this is likely to focus on insurance products of "greater economic significance", such as life insurance contracts, which could serve as private pensions for citizens.

"For example," it said, "citizens moving to work in another EU country may face problems having their rights under a private pension plan recognised if taken out in another EU country."

The group of experts will report at the end of 2013, after which the Commission will decide on any possible follow-up actions.

Viviane Reding, EU commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, said: "This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of our single market, which is at the heart of cross-border trade.

"But there is still work ahead of us – for example, in the insurance sector, where the level of cross-border trade in insurance products remains very low."

The expert group will bring together stakeholders, including insurance providers, representatives of consumer and business users, academics and legal professionals.

It will assist the Commission in examining whether differences in insurance contract laws hinder cross-border distribution.

The analysis is part of the Commission Agenda for Adequate, Safe and Sustainable Pensions announced in 2012.

Pension experts have argued for several months now that the lack of harmonisation in social and labour laws across Europe comes as a significant obstacle to the development of IORP cross-border activity.

In a previous interview with IPE, Matti Leppälä, secretary general at PensionsEurope – said it was infeasible to try to harmonise occupational pension systems, and that this could not be done as part of single-market legislation.

"[These systems] are very much part of social and labour law, and harmonisation should take place on a national level through social partners, or at EU level if they so wish," he said at the time.

"The EU lacks competence in harmonising these areas, and it is necessary to [reiterate] that these are political decisions and not single-market technical issues."