/ Home & Energy, Money, Motoring

Stop ‘rip-off’ home and car insurance charges

When I moved house recently, my bank account and credit card provider changed my details without a charge or fuss. So why won’t car and home insurance companies do the same?

Insurers are fighting a fierce battle to appear at the top of comparison site listings and win car and home insurance business.

But while headline prices appear low, if you make any minor changes to your details (such as getting married or moving house), choose to pay monthly or even cancel your policy, you could find yourself hit with hefty charges later on.

Big household names such as AA Insurance and Hastings Insurance are among the worst offenders, but they’re not the only ones.

Policies chock-full of charges

Consider a few examples from a variety of insurers:

  • If you want to pay by instalments, you could be charged an APR of over 30%. Some providers even charge a credit set-up fee.
  • Some providers will charge you a policy set-up fee, followed by a renewal fee a year later.
  • Make changes to your insurance policy and you could be charged up to £35. That’s not including changes to your premium based on your changed risk profile.
  • If you need a duplicate copy of your policy, you could have to pay up to £35 for it.
  • And if you want to cancel, one insurer we looked at will charge you a whopping £75. Others charge as much as £55.
  • Some providers will then work out your refund on a ‘short-term’ basis if you cancel. This could mean that you won’t get a pro-rata refund, but a lower amount. For example, cancel in month three and you might only get half your premium back.

It’s inevitable that many customers’ circumstances will change, and the costs of updating their details on an insurer’s system shouldn’t be an opportunity for the company to extract further profit from you.

Who should take charge of charges?

If you change address or vehicle and your new circumstances mean you pose an increased risk to the insurer, it’s only fair you should pay extra to cover the revised premium.

However, fees should be proportionate to the cost incurred by the insurer. And, at the very least, all fees should be clear at the outset and available on the insurer’s website, not just when documents are sent out.

All too often it’s a lose-lose situation for the customer. Update your personal circumstances and chances are you’ll be charged for it, but don’t update them and your policy can become invalid. Cancel the policy instead and you could be hit with even bigger charges.

Car and home insurance costs enough without insurers and brokers squeezing every last penny out of customers making common changes to their policy or paying by instalments.

What’s the biggest insurance charge you’ve been hit with? And who do you think should pay for common changes to car and home insurance policies?

Comments

RIAS – Home insurance, monthly premium £8, increased mine to nearly £11 without so much as hows your father, so I cancelled within 2 weeks. They have sent me a bill for £15 cancellation fee and £3.98 charges totalling £18.98p… they think they can increase their premiums under a recurring policy by 30%+ and get away with it. I think distance selling regulations might apply, increased premium etc.. So am going to check, not going to pay it without a FIGHT!

Car insurance, cancelled within two weeks of starting one up as their prices doubled from 69pound to 120. Found a better deal and accepted the fee but charging us 112 on top for wot we used. Despite being conned, we don’t get paid til end of month but won’t accept the wait.

hastings direct will charge me £45 cancellation fee , plus ,arrangement fee of £20 ,plus call centre arrangement fee of £12.50 and any charges made by the insurer, so i guess they are just a broker. So strongly suggest you avoid hastings direct, or hastings anything.That was from Go Compare and they dont compere admin charges.

It’s not just admin fees. They expect one to do their work for them too, at no cost to them. We have just had 12M of our front wall demolished by one of their clients and considerable damage to our house too, potentially rendering it uninhabitable. It was a lone driver who got caught out by an icy patch and no other vehicle was involved.
A similar incident happened some years before and we were advised by our home insurer to go direct to the car’s insurer as it would not then affect our 35 years no claims or premiums. We did and GA sent out people to secure our property the same day and arranged for the rebuild of the wall and gateway within a fortnight. We did nothing more than call them and provide details, they did everything else.
Hastings however said we had to get two quotes from reputable builders, send them to Hastings, wait for them to send out a surveyor, wait for him to file his report, wait for them to approve the work, get it done, pay for it, send them the invoices and hope they’ll pay.
They said the would not pay for our time, any emergency inspections and remedial work on our septic tank as it had been filled with wall rubble and waste pipes damaged meaning we could not use water or toilets which makes our home uninhabitable, nor would they pay for any other emergency work done before they approved quotes, and they would not pay for out of pocket expenses, alternative accommodation or loss of no claims and increases in premiums resultant from the accident. Our home insurer (Which recommended) who originally suggested we deal direct to avoid making a claim was then re-contacted and we agreed to pay the excess (which they hope to get back) It was a rather different experience. Someone was arranged today to come and check and repair the septic tank as required, and the loss adjuster is coming tomorrow morning and they will instruct their tradesmen to carry out the work.
Thank you Which for the recommendations!
It beggars belief that Hastings will almost certainly have to pay for everything they refused to pay for, plus whatever our insurer adds and we will be suing them for any increases in premiums which we have been advised are likely even though we were not at fault, so in the end it will cost them more than if they had been courteous and realistic. What a bunch of charlatans.

I have just rang my car insurers to inform them of my address change.My car is now garaged under lock and key yet was told i have to pay £92.75 for this change !!!! I am furious. A £ 25 fee for address change and the policy fee has risen due to a post code change !!! Its all a scam and the government should stop this.Quotes can vary for the same cover by £ 500 its a huge scam.Avoid Hastings Direct.

One Call Insurance want to charge a £39.00 admin fee to change car on policy due to old car been written off after I was crashed into (not my fault). Had this with the banks charging stupid fees for letters surly this sits within the same money making scam.

Giby says:
12 July 2016

1st central insurance. £15 admin fee. £275 increase in just address change. In effect my monthly premium has skyrocketed to £67 instead of £48. They are saying its a high risk area and they got more number of claims. Any hope to get it lowered?

I’d shop around other companies – Which? recommend a number. Then if you get a lower premium try negotiating with 1st Central. Otherwise move – you might get an early exit charge but worth it if you save overall.

i have just had the same problem today change of address has just cost me £310 with 1st central insurance, safe to say had me in tears considering i paid my insurance £275 in full in february . if you find out any way of claiming anything back let me know

joey says:
18 July 2016

what do you expect. this is Britain. that why I am leaving this country to a better country.

[Hello Joey, your comment has been tweaked to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

This comment was removed at the request of the user

The real country is its people. In all countries the vast majority are good ordinary people. We must not judge a country by the small minority who are a stain on its character. Even if they hold power – which unpleasant small minorities often do (a bit like some businesses and organisations really).

Brian Buxton says:
23 August 2016

Just changed my Address with Hastings Direct. £25 Admin charge, £96.71 on premium. Is there an Insurance Ombudsman. I have moved about 1 mile to quieter area. Rip off or what.

Yes, it’s the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The quieter area you moved to may be more of an insurance risk, hence the increased premium. You could look at this by getting quotes from other insurers for your new, and your original, address. The fee for change of address should be in your insurance documents.

I’d suggest you need to put a factual case together that demonstrates you have been ripped off, make a formal complaint to Hastings Direct and if that does not reach agreement then consider involving the third party. Your insurer should tell you how the complaints procedure works. My guess is, if the premium reflects your new location, and if the fee is in your documents, there is no case.

Aimee says:
8 September 2016

OMG…Hastings Direct as i make this comment are trying to Charge me an Extra £284 Premium charge for Them deciding to double check 3 small matters on my Policy details, inputting 2 minor ammendments on my Policy which is my first car I actually was able to purchase myself, In my name & Fully Comprehensive, I paid for 12months of cover outright..which was 3months ago!!??? £25 of the £284 is the Admin charge for ammending a Policy I fully accept that (Well for the Temp Agency Admin Office Junior that has done the Typeing of the ammendments is what they mean its for) BUT REALLY??? Im a Single Mother of 1 young Son, im On very Low Income, Un-Employed as signed off for Depression due to my Sons father being killed 12months ago in RTA & they ‘Randomly Crawl out the Woodwork, suddenly needing Info that obviously isnt needed IF Policy set up & accepted, £ taken/swallowed up 3months ago & Demanding i pay EXTRA £260 within 14days or whole policy will be cancelled, Money ive paid totally gone to them & so Id Have to sell my Car leaving my Son & I without our Lifeline to family & friends!!???

I am moving house next week to a lovely private cul de sac in a great area (1 mile from my current address)…. and my insurance is set to rise by over £100 a year (which is a third of the total price!) plus a £25 charge to change the policy documents….disgusting. Thanks but no thanks Lloyds Bank (underwritten by Ageas Insurance Ltd)

Sam, why not check by getting quotes from other insurers for both addresses to see what differences there are. You could then have evidence to challenge your current insurer if you think they are out of line.

Lorraine says:
10 September 2016

Hasting rob dog smart smiles!! Avoid ! Avoid! Shameful company, ripping youngsters off, they should be closed down.

Hastings direct want me to pay them an extra £35 to cancel a fully paid motorcycle policy with 6 months remaining and thats with the cancellation fee being waived. They also tell me I cant just let the policy run. What a scam!

Mark, presumably a 6 month policy would be more expensive than a 12 month policy and this is reflected in the extra charge?

just tried to swap vehicles mid term on my Adrian Flux policy and was told I had to pay £250 extra because it was a vehicle I wasn’t used to driving (changed from a ford transit to a vw crafter) apparently I had built up a “regular vehicle bonus” with the transit, I lost this when I switched to a vw!!?? is there such a thing?

I expect that because Adrian Flux is a specialist insurance broker, not an insurer, and offers bespoke, cover tailored to the individual circumstances and the vehicle, they need to start again when the owner changes to a different type of vehicle. Presumably you will build up another “regular vehicle bonus” over time if you stick with the VW. Or perhaps it’s time to compare the market . . .

Mark gibb says:
2 May 2017

Never ever use 1st central. I am changing address, 2.5 mile down the road. To an apartment block, which has 24hr manned security with barriers and gates and around 6 or security cameras! Before I was just on street parking! And they want £819 for he privilege and a £15 admin fee. I tried to plead with the guy in the phone. Blankly said, there’s nothing we can do! It’s that or cancel it! After paying them thousands over the last few years! Can’t cancel, coz I’ll be charged for that to. Disgrace!!!!!! It “IS” robbery and nothing else.

Ross Freeman says:
9 May 2017

BrightSide Insurance seem to think I owe them £970 after canceling a car insurance of £2500 p/a after 4 months , I was paying just over £250 a month , Ombudsman time !

Denise Currier says:
2 July 2021

I am with bright side rang today to change my address they wanted 72 pound I explained just cost me 400 with mot and just paid them my monthly payment and I would not be able to pay this 72 pound until next month, they said had to be paid today or insurance will be cancelled, I said been a customer for 2 years have home contents insurance with them as well could they not wait, nope insurance will be cancelled on 9th July, what can I do.

My husband was the lead driver on our Hastings Direct policy & I was named in the policy – both of us had a No Claims Bonus. The policy is up for renewal so they sent a renewal quote. My husband recently died so I phoned Hastings to ask them to change the name & explained why. They refused & insisted on preparing a new policy which suddenly went up by over £200.
I’m livid!!

Mark says:
27 January 2020

I just updated my address with Hasting Direct and they charged me in total £97.22. I only took the policy out with them in October 19, so I’m 4 months In and they have got another £100 from me. They claim they charge £20 as they the middle man and rest is a recalculation for my policy and even worse if I don’t like it I should move providers. So I should just ignore the money I paid them upfront 4 months ago… ridiculous charges. £20 ok but a £100 for an address change and I have even better off road parking then I had previously and I am 100 yards from a police station. Terrible service. They say they taking crime into consideration? Absolute joke, I am in within the same area…

Jasper Knight says:
1 February 2021

£440 charge to change the address.

Avoid at ALL costs. I cannot recommend this enough. Any insurer except 1st central!

Aliyah says:
10 February 2021

I wanted to cancel my insurance after a month and they said I would have to give up the 6 months fee which I have paid in advance which was £1100 and after two months we had an address change where the insurance company came back and said we have to pay £800 for change of address. Can you believe these companies are just making the most of it in this pandemic and putting more people under stress where Government is not doing anything to control it.

£36.61 for a change of address on my car insurance with Esure. I may also have to increase my predicted miles driven and have been told that will also be subject to a similar ‘admin’ fee. No other business or organisation has charged me a fee for admin involved in changing my address. It’s time this dishonest practice was stopped.

It would be fair to charge more if you plan to use the car more but some companies charge for changes that are unlikely to change the risk. Here is what I posted a few years ago: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/insurance-extra-charges-for-changing-details/#comment-75402

My car insurance. is due for renewal soon so I will look at charges for making changes when shopping around. Thanks for the reminder Robert.

This practice is not universal. NFU do not charge for those changes as far as I know. A change of address may involve an increased risk, as would an increase in mileage over what was originally declared. These would be premium increases. It does cost money to make changes – someone spends admin time doing it. Whether they should charge for this and whether the charges reflect the cost are conditions you need to check when you take out a policy.

One of the reasons I switched to NFU Mutual is that they do not charge for small changes that are unlikely to change the risk. I was not charged when I changed my address five years ago. I do not know whether that increased or decreased the risk.

When choosing car insurance it’s worth looking at the cost of adding breakdown cover rather than using a separate company. The terms and conditions can be different but if they suit your needs it could provide a worthwhile saving. It works for me.

Here is a recent Which? article about fees charged by car insurance companies: https://www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/car-insurance/car-insurance-add-ons-fees-and-charges-a0ls14l8tsgt

One of the many reasons I switched away from Non Functional Union, was because of the appalling way they handled my no-fault car insurance claim, and by the way they deliberately delayed responding to my e-mails by purporting to have sent them to the wrong e-mail address, even though their ISP would have notified them of this error, and by the way they continued to delay further correspondence in an anti-competitive effort to keep me tied to them indefinitely, preventing me from switching to another insurance provider, and worse, they failed to make contact with a potential reliable witness that could have settled my claim and forced the perpetrator to face the consequences of his negligent driving practices.

Fortunately, after alerting the ombudsman to this anti-competitive malpractice, the ombudsman closed my claim just before my annual premium expired, freeing me to search for another provider.

NFU failed to take my car from me and failed to coerce me into paying them for another year of their unethical, unscrupulous business practices.

One of the many continuing injustices in the secular realm of the car insurance industry as a whole is; I am now obligated to declare the no-fault NCB penalties imposed by the previous provider to the new one.

What this article fails to tell you is; if you are fully comprehensively covered, to include all of the add ons in the above article, and if you happen to disagree with your car insurer that your car is repairable and not a right off, as they initially claim it to be, and they then change their minds and agree with you, but still refuse to compensate and pay for the repairs and you end up paying for them yourself as the only sure way left to keep the car, they are entitled to negate your claim for a courtesy car whilst undergoing repairs and all legal expenses.

This is what happened to me. When NFU realised they were in breach of the agreed contract, and that this had now become a legal issue. They then invalidated all my claims for legal expense coverage. I was on my own, and to add insult to injury, although the ombudsman was very sympathetic to my case, they were unable to take the matter any further without witness backup to the accident which NFU failed to do, despite giving them detailed contact to a reliable source.

The ombudsman, who is funded by large business corporates and institutions such as the NFU, ignored all of the mitigating circumstances pertaining to the appalling way i was treated by NFU, but then, who would want to take on the mouth that feeds you?

In a previous post I commented on the way in Which? evaluates their ratings, and the above article only confirms my suspicions that these ratings are based on that which a company offers. Unfortunately, the reality very often is very different when these rogue companies are challenged by the people who fund them.

I expect that most people who give an opinion on car insurance have not had a recent claim, never mind a complicated one.

Many years ago I had a motorcycle accident after a driver had emerged from a side road and hit me and my bike. The car driver admitted liability to the police and I had started legal action, yet my insurer treated this as if no blame was attributed to either party. Fortunately I was able to change their decision.

I do not support ombudsman services being supported directly by companies and have no idea how objectively cases are dealt with.