Simon Read: Add-on insurance selling is unnecessary and should stop

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The Independent Online

As predicted in last week's column, the City watchdog this week announced a shake-up of the murky world of insurance add-ons, a business worth £1bn.

I had hoped that the Financial Conduct Authority would introduce a ban on the sale of the expensive cover that is flogged when you're buying other items.

Instead it simply gave warning to insurers that a crackdown is coming. Add-on insurance is usually pushed on unsuspecting consumers alongside home and motor policies, credit cards, bank accounts and even when buying cars or holidays.

The worry is that many of these policies are either expensive or unnecessary. We're sold them by a tick or signature and told that they may cost a few quid – but actually, many are horribly expensive.

There is nothing wrong with buying all the insurance you want if you can afford it and know what you're spending your money on.

But the cover should be bought separately, from a third-party insurer that does not have a vested interest at the point of sale.

People need to make an informed decision about whether they need the cover or, crucially, whether they can afford it.

Rules should prevent add-on cover from being sold at the point when we're trying to buy something else.

Instead it should be a buyer's decision, driven by a need, rather than a company's desire to boost its profits.

The FCA's damning investigation showed that consumers are potentially being overcharged by up to £200m each year for add-on cover that they may not use or even need.

The watchdog said there was "a lack of competition and information at point of sale, preventing consumers from making comparisons and informed decisions about products".

Two out of five people had not planned to buy the cover before being flogged it and one in five couldn't even recall buying the cover three months later.

This blatant sale of questionable insurance must cease.

The FCA has set a deadline of 8 April for responses from the insurance industry before it acts. Then it must act strongly.

Twitter: @simonnread

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