Consumers have been left fighting their own corner in rip-off Britain - Jayne Dowle
I won’t mention the name of the insurance company. But I’ve been with them for seven years and let’s just say they’re supposed to reward careful older homeowners and motorists with value-for-money premiums.
Make that past tense. I’m not with them anymore, because I spent the best part of a Thursday afternoon on the phone, attempting to persuade - then yes, begging – this firm to reconsider the almost 100 per cent hike in my annual premium. I didn’t want the hassle of having to shift my business, but despite the kind service, the company clearly didn’t give two hoots.
Up from £33 a month to £59 a month, with just some rider about ‘recent adverse weather conditions in my neighbourhood’ by way of explanation. Last time I looked none of my neighbours had suffered from horrendous flooding, or found their roof ripped off by a tornado, thank goodness.
I can’t fault the call-handling staff. The first time I rang, I got a helpful young man, the second time a kind woman who told me she was aged 62. She felt my pain as she too was still working and trying to make her hard-earned money go further and further every month.
She did genuinely sound sad when I told her that I had spent an hour on Compare the Market, the online comparison site, and found an alternative provider who would offer the same level of cover for £30 a month, £3 cheaper than I paid last year.
Given that everything else in the world, from food to fuel, has been on such an upwards cost trajectory of late, I couldn’t look this gift horse in the mouth.
So farewell then former insurance provider. Thanks for not rewarding my loyalty, and obliging me to devote several hours on a working day to saving myself £300 or so a year.
Time-consuming it might have been, but if I have any advice for anyone in a similar situation, it would be to do exactly the same. We have to stand up for ourselves, and I hope my experience might empower others to follow suit.
In the absence of the government stepping in to do anything whatsoever about insurance companies hiking up premiums on a spurious ‘cost of living’ basis, we’re on our own.
Back in June, the cross-party Treasury Committee pulled in evidence from consumers and senior representatives from the insurance industry and held them to account, probing the impact of inflation on insurance premiums, the conduct of insurers when handling claims, and the size of insurance payouts.
Speaking ahead of the session, Harriett Baldwin MP, chair of the committee, said: “Insurers provide a vital service, protecting our most prized possessions from theft, loss and damage. However, we’ve heard anecdotal evidence in recent months of premiums rising faster than inflation, insurers refusing to pay out, and difficulties in making claims.”
Anecdotal evidence or not, it’s all gone very quiet from Westminster since. And so it falls to us, individual consumers with plenty of other responsibilities to attend to, to fight our own corners.
Annoying and time-consuming as this is, I rarely mind the challenge if I’m honest. But what of the countless number of individuals, who try to do the right thing by paying to insure homes, belongings, vehicles, even pets, but can’t argue back and put their case across?
Older people, those who find speaking on the phone difficult, or lack the access and or confidence to search online for alternatives to rip-off providers, are ending up stuck and paying over the odds.
As the more cynical amongst us know, this is exactly what such providers want; customers who allow this to happen because they don’t feel comfortable mounting a quest for better value.
I’d like to see a government minister pick up the baton and prove to us all that they really do understand the financial pain such profiteering companies are putting us through.
Each case is individual, obviously - and recent extreme weather is clearly a factor in areas prone to severe flooding, for example - but there should definitely be rules laid down to prevent premiums rocketing without just cause.
This is especially pertinent when an individual has not made a claim in the previous 12 months. It’s far too easy for insurers to blame ‘rising costs’ without being held accountable.
And clearly, as I found out with a bit of diligent Googling, this argument really does not hold water.