Why can't the insurers play fair instead of forcing customers to haggle on price?

Independent reader David Thatcher questions the quote offered and typically gets a reduction

Simon Read
Saturday 23 January 2016 01:21 GMT
Insurance companies are driving their customers to distraction at policy renewal time
Insurance companies are driving their customers to distraction at policy renewal time (Getty Images)

Many of you wrote in about your insurance renewal woes following my story last week of reader Peter Timberlake, whose Aviva home insurance doubled after he made a claim. Alan Guest has been happy with his Direct Line car cover for years, but not any more. Two years ago it cost £238.15 but it suddenly shot up last year to £274.54. When this year's renewal quote came in at £309.89, he took action, telling the insurer he was cancelling. Despite being then given a revised quote of £270.40, he moved to a different firm altogether after it offered him cover at £238.23. "I had the distinct impression that Direct Line had decided that, after all these years, I would stay with them whatever they charged, so they were milking me for whatever they could get. They were wrong – and have lost out," he said.

His experience is far from uncommon, underlining the importance of not simply accepting a renewal quote, but shopping around for better deals – they are out there.

David Thatcher uses broker AA every year and usually ends up with a different insurer each time, he reported. But he also pointed out that each year he questions the quote offered and typically gets a reduction. This year it was a £50 discount on an initial quote of £390.

"I regard it as scandalous that insurance companies, like the energy providers, do not always offer the best terms and rely on the inertia of customers to maximise profits," he said. I agree. All most of us want is to get a fair price. Having to haggle for a decent deal is not always easy and big companies should not make us go through the rigmarole every year.

Co-op takes a step in the right direction

There is one insurer at least that seems to be trying to make it easier for people to understand their insurance costs, after it realised that two-thirds of us have no idea how premium rates are calculated. Co-op Insurance has just sent 10,000 customers an explanation of where their premium money goes. The information also sets out the consequences of certain types of claims – how much a fire claim would cost, for example.

At the moment this is just a trial project, but the company says it hopes to offer it to all customers. "We want to focus on fairness and simplicity," claimed the Co-op's James Hillon. He told me the company is looking at a range of other options, too, to explain how insurance pricing works.

Fairness and simplicity should be at the heart of all financial companies' offerings to consumers. This is a very small step in the right direction, but a positive one.

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