The ABI has published its first ever list of car alarms that meet minimum standards, which it is recommending insurers use as a basis for awarding premium discounts and offering policies.
The Consumers' Association has been critical of the failure of the insurance industry to adopt a common standard for car alarms and has welcomed the list. Roger Taylor, a senior researcher at the association, said: 'We have been concerned that not enough insurers have been giving discounts. Many have said in the past that they were not sure about the quality of the products.'
Mr Taylor said that having raised premiums because theft claims were proving too expensive, the insurers should now offer discounts for the installation of alarms. 'Having complained so much, it is obvious they should give some incentives,' he said.
It could take several months, however, for the list to be generally adopted. The Motor Insurance Repair Centre at Thatcham, which is testing all the security systems, has so far passed just six. They are split into three categories, according to whether they combine alarm and immobiliser, contain an electronic immobiliser or a mechanical immobiliser.
Several insurers say they will offer discounts only on category one systems, which combine alarm and immobiliser. The only three such systems to have been passed so far are the Cobra, which costs pounds 475 fitted, and the Gemini and the Selmar, which both cost pounds 450.
Even with the most generous of discounts, it could take several years for the purchase of an alarm to pay for itself. Norwich Union offers a 7.5 per cent discount on lower-risk vehicles and 25 per cent on higher-risk cars. But the company, whose list is slightly different from that of the ABI, will not insure highest-risk cars, such as GTE's, without acceptable alarms.
Churchill offers 5 to 7 per cent discounts on categoryone systems. Royal Insurance offers a 10 per cent discount, and is now considering offering lower discounts for category two and three equipment. Sun Alliance has also adopted the ABI list, and is offering a 10 per cent discount - but only to some policyholders.
General Accident offers 10 per cent premium discounts on Vector and Gemini systems, and existing policyholders are entitled to price reductions on the equipment. Guardian Royal Exchange offers its customers reduced prices for Gemini and Selmar systems, but does not offer premium discounts.
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