Pensioners left in the cold by finance firms

Two out of three car insurers have age restrictions, while banks are shutting branches every 48 hours

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The Independent Online

Motor insurers are still imposing maximum age limits on customers, a shock report published by Which? today has uncovered.

On top of that, many fail to help older drivers find adequate cover, despite new rules which came into place in April recommending that firms help customers find an insurer which is prepared to cover them.

Some 21 of the top 30 car insurers the consumer group examined have age limits, with 14 refusing cover to anyone older than 85.

The news comes against the background of an alarming report published on Wednesday by the International Longevity Centre which showed more older people than ever are being excluded from financial services.

The report found that almost one in 10 people aged 80 or more became excluded from financial products in a six-year period. That's compared to only one in 50 among those in their fifties becoming excluded over the same time frame.

David Sinclair, assistant director at the centre, said: "We should not be complacent about financial exclusion. The most disadvantaged are being hit hardest as a result of a lack of access to financial services and products."

The report revealed that almost 10 per cent of older people do not have a current account and a quarter have no life insurance. People with no banking facilities end up paying more for many bills – such as crucial heating and lighting – as they are unable to pay by standing order or direct debit.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, said: "Many of these services are essential and so need to be designed with everyone in mind, including older people."

She said many pensioners have become excluded by banks because local branches have been closed, call centres are inaccessible or simply because many older folk find it very hard to get cash out.

A report published by the Campaign for Community Banking this week suggested that things are getting worse for pensioners who rely on their local bank branch as one is shut for good every two days.

More than 1,200 towns and large villages in Britain are now without a bank and 900 have just one branch left, according to the campaign.

HSBC has closed the most branches in the last decade, shutting 386. This year alone has seen 47 HSBC branches disappear as part of its ongoing cost-cutting. Meanwhile, Lloyds TSB has shut 354 and Barclays has closed 162 branches since 2002.

When it comes to car cover, Which? named and shamed insurance giant Direct Line – which also owns Churchill and Privilege – as appearing to exclude people aged 80 or older.

"When we tested the online car insurance quote services for Direct Line brands and entered a date of birth for a driver aged 80 or above, we received an error message saying 'applicants must be younger than 80 when cover is due to begin'," Which? reported.

Direct Line said older people should call for a quote, rather than use its online service.

A spokesman said: "We are unable to provide quotes on our websites for drivers over the age of 79. We never decline to quote for a driver on their age and currently provide cover for many customers into their late nineties."

Which? said there are six companies which have no maximum age limits that are worth contacting: Axa, LV, Nationwide building society, RIAS, Saga and Swiftcover.

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