About 60 insurance agents gathered outside Armenia’s main border crossing with Georgia for a second day on Tuesday to protest against what they see as the government’s privileged treatment of their competitors.
The protesting brokers work for five private firms selling mandatory car insurance to the owners of vehicles entering the country through the Bagratashen crossing. Their offices are located just a few hundred meters from the border checkpoint.
Another private insurer called Top Spin also rented premises nearby until being allowed by the Armenian customs service to open an office inside the checkpoint and start operating there this month. The company thus found itself in a position to approach car owners before they get to buy insurance policies from its competitors.
The brokers working for the other firms say Top Spin gained an unfair competitive advantage and is now effectively driving them out of the business. They say that their daily revenues have already plummeted as a result.
“The clients must be able to choose [an insurer,]” said one of the angry protesters. “But a single company has now become a monopolist.”
The protesters blocked a highway leading to the Bagratashen checkpoint and kept it closed for around 30 kilometers. Traffic through the highway resumed only after police intervention.
Local Top Spin representatives refused to comment on the controversy. The company reportedly won the exclusive right to do business inside the checkpoint as a result of a purported tender administered by Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC). The protesters claimed that their firms were never notified about the tender in advance.
The SRC, which comprises the national customs service, declined a comment on Monday and Tuesday.