Two investigations have uncovered tactics used by insurers to rip off loyal and often elderly customers, or those hunting simply for the best headline deals.
The Sunday Times highlights the plight of a “large number” of frail or vulnerable customers, many of whom are elderly and may not have access to the internet to compare quotes easily, who are being charged far more than average for policies with insurers they have used for years.
“All the cases have two factors in common: the customer has been loyal to the insurer for many years and the premium is much higher than those for equivalent policies on comparison websites,” the paper said. Most examples cited involved home insurance or breakdown cover.
In one case an elderly man with Huntington’s disease and diabetes who had bought insurance from the Halifax for more than 20 years, was found to be paying £1,009 a year for a policy available with a rival for just £168. In another, a man in his 80s who had worked his entire career at Barclays and had bought his home insurance with the bank for a decade, was paying £1,400 for a policy that was widely available for around £200.
The onus is on customers to shop around when their policies are due for renewal, with few insurers even offering a year-on-year comparison of their own price change. The paper notes that while “charging large sums for renewals may be unethical, it is not illegal” and even the ombudsman “cannot force companies to be competitive”.
Separately, an investigation by consumer research organisation Which? found car and home insurers are charging sums equivalent to sizable increases in the headline rate for basic extras or to make changes to the policy.
The Guardian notes KwikFit, Axa, Swiftcover and Esure were found to be “among the worst car insurance providers for charging extras that can add as much as £100 to drivers’ bills”. KwikFit, for example, adds fees that equate to an APR of around 64 per cent to pay a premium monthly rather than in one go, while iGo4 and Endsleigh charge £75 to cancel a policy.
Elderly customers would be advised to review quotes from Age UK, the paper adds, after it “came top in the research” and was found to be “almost the only insurer in Britain not to charge extra for people who want to pay monthly rather than annually”.