Only firms registered with the Insurance Brokers Registration Council (IBRC) can use the title of insurance broker. And registration is only granted to those who meet stringent standards of competence and financial security. IBRC members are legally obliged to maintain adequate professional indemnity insurance and sell people the most appropriate policies - and this does not necessarily mean the cheapest. Should mistakes be made you are also protected by a compensation fund.
Lesley Mackay, communications manager at the British Insurance & Investment Brokers Association (BIIBA), says: "We get a lot of calls from members of the public who have a problem with an unregistered intermediary and we can do nothing to help. If they are registered, the case can be referred to the IBRC and, if the broker is found to be negligent, compensation may be made available from the fund."
A phone call to either BIIBA or the Institute of Insurance Brokers (IIB) - the two trade associations representing registered insurance brokers - can provide a method of finding a suitable firm. Both are willing to provide inquirers with free lists of local insurance brokers - whether your need is mainstream or specialist.
The IIB also helps consumers talk through any insurance problems free of charge.
Brokers who operate on a flat-fee basis (normally around pounds 45) can prove highly cost-effective for policies where the premium is higher, but poor value for low-premium policies.
With those who take a percentage-based commission the opposite tends to apply - commission is normally around 20 per cent for household and 10-12.5 per cent for motor. All such charges are included in the prices they quote.
WHERE TO GET HELP
Body What for
BIIBA Free lists of local 0171 623 brokers for general 9043 and specialist
IIB Free lists of local 01933 brokers for general
410003 and specialist policies; advice on
IBRC For reporting 0171 621 grievances against
1061 registered brokers; for checking if
a firm is in fact a registered broker.