Property and casualty insurance companies, including the nation’s top six firms, failed to make payouts to policyholders in more than 10,000 cases — worth several hundred million yen — over the past three years due to computer glitches and human error, industry sources said Wednesday.

The revelation comes on the heels of a similar scandal that rocked the life insurance industry earlier this year.

The nonlife insurers plan to publicize their findings, possibly by midmonth, and make the delayed payments, the sources said.

Nonlife insurers have opened internal probes into cases from the past three years, but not all of them are complete, so the amount of money could be higher, they added.

The six largest companies, including Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. and Sompo Japan Insurance Inc., discovered several thousand cases each.

Many companies have described the failure as an “innocent mistake,” citing defective computer programs and saying most cases involve additional benefits for automobile insurance, including medical costs for passengers injured in accidents involving cars driven by policyholders.

Some sources said the computer defects reflect the intensifying competition in the sector.

“Work to develop computer systems has often failed to catch up with the speed of product development,” a source said. “In addition, some companies do not sufficiently train staff in charge of estimating the payable benefits.”

The industry has suffered from sluggish growth in automobile insurance, which is the main product.

In fiscal 2004 through the end of last March, nonlife insurers received 8.69 trillion yen in net premiums, down 0.7 percent from the previous year.

The recent entry of foreign insurers has also heightened competition, the sources said.

On July 26, the Financial Services Agency ordered all 39 life insurers operating in Japan to investigate whether they have failed to make payouts to policyholders over the past five years.

The order followed disclosures that Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. illegally refused to pay death benefits.

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