/ Money, Motoring

Rip-off car insurance fees just to change your name

Sneaky fees illustration

Car insurance. It’s one of those costly but necessary transactions that comes round once a year. But then it’s all done and dusted, or so I thought until my friend got married and was charged to change her name.

Like so many of us she’d shopped around for the best deal, and then she thought no more of it until her name change resulted in a hefty admin fee.

Her story isn’t an exception. As part of our Sneaky Fees and Charges campaign we’ve uncovered a whole raft of admin fees stinging car insurance customers for the smallest of things.

How much to change my name?

To change your name, address or job the highest amount charged was £35 by IGO4 Insurance. That’s £10 above the average price (£22.79). Only five of the 44 companies we investigated didn’t have any ‘adjustment fees’.

Some providers also added fees for paying monthly, paying by credit card, getting duplicate documents, setting up premiums, renewing premiums and cancelling policies.

Car insurance

The highest fee we found was £75. IGO4 charges this much if you want to cancel during the 14 day cooling-off period. And you’ll also be charged £75 by Budget, Endsleigh and IGO4 for ending your policy early. The average cost for this is £49.55, whereas Age UK, NFU Mutual, Volkswagen and Volvo don’t charge anything at all.

Stop rip-off fees

Previously two thirds of consumers told us they think companies use separate fees to trick people into thinking the product or service is cheaper than it is. With such a huge variation between providers, we want companies to justify why they’re charging such a high amount for what are, in some cases, just simple policy tweaks.

All fees for setting up, amending or duplicating an insurance policy should be reasonable and no more than the cost to the company. We also want companies to set out all their fees and charges clearly so you can easily compare between providers.

What’s the craziest fee you’ve been charged by your car insurance provider? Was it for something simple like changing your name?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

When I renewed my car insurance in July 2011, I said I would be retiring at the end of September. I was asked to contact them at the time. I did this and was told there would be an administration charge to amend my details. I politely explained that I had provided this information earlier and for this reason had no intention of paying a charge. The person I was speaking to put me on hold and then came back to say that there would be no charge ‘on this occasion’. If they had insisted in making the charge, I would have told them that I would be leaving their company at renewal time.

On the other hand, it would be fair for an insurance company to charge more if a customer moves to a higher risk area.

Profile photo of andrew in harrogate
Member

This is a disgraceful way of milking the client for even more money.

The insurers have got the job because a) HM Government have made laws that say every vehicle must have a minimum of 3rd party insurance and b) cars are that expensive that if the driver has a bump, then the finances are not as badly hit. As the insurance is compulsory, then paying the annual premium ought to be the stopping point for charges.

As for fees to clients and actual costs to insurers, there must be a ban on things like a fee for notifying change of name, employment or address – even more so if there is no change to the risk.

On this count, I can commend Tesco car insurance: When I told them that I was / was not working, they just made the changes to my policy and although the risk had varied a bit, they stated they were just happy with me coming to tell them and they would write off any premium differences.

Also the idea of refunding the annual premium or part thereof when being cancelled needs to be looked at. The customer pays a premium for a year’s cover and expects the same amount of cover on day 364 as day 1. It is not on when the policy is cancelled 8 months into the year, that there is no refund of circa 33%. Some rubbish about “it costs more at the start of the year” spouts from the lips of insurers.

Is all this potentially the Insurance Industry’s next PPI scandal? They ought to be made to do refunds!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I totally agree that additional fees should be transparent and reflect the cost, if any, of making a change. Some fees may be justifiable but have you (Which?) asked insurance companies or the Association of British Insurers to explain their policy and to justify their fees and the costs? It would be useful to see both sides of this debate.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Insurance companies require us to keep our details up to date, so the costs of making such corrections should be included in the premium, whichever company we use.

If we want to change the cover, which could include adding another driver then it would be make an appropriate charge. If moving home increases the risk, then a charge would be appropriate.

The first priority should be to stop the ‘rip-off’ charges that Jane mentions in her introduction. Simply getting companies to set out their charges would not allow us to make an easy comparison of the cost of insurance from different companies.

We seem to have a constant battle against commercial greed.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

It is to talk about commercial greed and rip-offs but there is a case for commercial realities to be made.

If I hardly ever move or change details on my policies should I have a factor built in to accommodate the possibility I might do a change. A company can take this route but it may well suffer on those comparison sites where people only investigate the headline cost and the excess.

Perhaps there should be a rule that every policy must include a cost free alteration as standard. Those people who move around, or add and drop people can certainly pay for additional costs – which should be revealed at inception of the policy and not subject to change during the period.

Please Ms Wallace could you name your friends insurer as it is helpful. I would like to know if they would change her name at renewal for free. The current policy could have continued as far as I know in her maiden name until renewal however change of address and possibly adding an additional driver ….

An interesting case for a regulatory body whether marrying would invalidate cover, and /or is a women allowed to retain her maiden name in business transactions. A fine can of worms : )

Member
Mark says:
17 August 2015

Insurers have had to adapt their business models to allow them to be competitive on comparison sites. Most insurers make a loss on the headline price shown on these sites so have to make their money elsewhere. Whilst I’m not condoning these fees, they are driven by consumer demand for “cheaper” insurance. If Which? can campaign for these fees to be made more visible at the point of sale, it can only be good for the consumer and the insurance market in general.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Which?’s latest campaign asks us to sign a petition “If you want insurance costs to be more transparent”. I support this – but why not totally transparent, not just more?

Which? wants all fees and charges to be upfront, fair and easy to compare – not buried in the small print. As long as the fees are quite clear it is up to the customer to decide whether they want to pay them. Being “fair” or not is then not an issue. The fees offered are up to the insurer ; if you don’t like the fees, don’t use the insurer.

Profile photo of George Martin
Member

I was caught by one of these a while back. I wasn’t made aware of the charge, so when asked if there was anything on my policy that needed updating, I mentioned that my job title had changed.

It was only then that I was told it’d cost £20 to change the details – I was asked if I ‘wanted to proceed’. If I’d said no then they’d have taken every opportunity to void my policy, so I had no choice. Really poor practice.

Profile photo of Carole
Member

How can one be charged £75 in the 14 day cooling off period. I thought that the whole point of the cooling off period was so that one could reconsider.

Profile photo of Carole
Member

As I understand it one is legally required to advise insurance companies of change of name/address so how can this be chargeable. It only takes a couple of minutes to update a computer screen!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

The 14 day cooling off period charge may include the insurance that has been provided in that time. As far as change of address, this may include a change in premium (different risk area) but simply amending a record should not be a significant cost.

Profile photo of Carole
Member

Malcolm r,

How can the cost for 14 days insurance be £75 when it is possible to obtain a whole year for £250?

I perfectly accept that if you move to a different area there will possibly be a change in the premium but quite often people move within the same postcode so there should be no additional cost.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Carole, I agree. This charge cropped up in an earlier conversation where from memory the premium charged (but later rejected) was around £1200. Any charge made should be a proportion of the annual insurance (my guess it might be up to a month for 14 days) plus a small fee for the cancellation admin set up and cancellation work. Many people would be fortunate (well, full no claims, sensible age, no claims, moderate car) to pay £250 a year!

Profile photo of Carole
Member

Malcolm r

My car ins renewal was £156.53 in March this year fully comp for my 10 yr old Peugeot 206 excess £250.

I admit to being a “Silver Saver”!!!

Profile photo of NFH
Member

The only justification for such a fee would be where the customer chooses to make the change via a call centre where it could have been done via the insurance company’s web site without incurring a fee. I’m all for encouraging customers to behave efficiently and keep businesses’ costs down, but these fees seem exorbitant.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

This topic prompts me to ask why insurance companies cannot be required to pay us an administration fee when they change their names and addresses. This usually involves me in having to alter some of my records [like lists of policies held and emergency telephone numbers, and calendars of renewal and payment dates]. At the very least I need to make a check to see if any thing needs altering. I wouldn’t be greedy – £10 a time would suffice. I think Aviva must have the biggest collection of name changes but the whole insurance industry is notorious for amalgamating and dividing over the last thirty years. Banks , building societies and credit card issuers seem to be able to cope with name and address changes without making a drama out of it and charging for a simple alteration [I realise it’s a bit more complex with insurers because they have to keep the central Motor Insurers’ Bureau and the Insurance Fraud Bureau databases updated but banks and other institutions have similar data-sharing obligations].

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Excellent John, but a bit long to suggest as Comment of the Week. 🙂

So often it’s heads they win and tails we lose with when dealing with business.

Member
Jenny says:
21 August 2015

I don’t want to get into the debate about the level of charges and the need for transparency – lots of good points have already been made – but as someone who used to work in IT, I get really annoyed when people say “it only takes a couple of minutes to update a computer screen” or “£75 just to hit Cancel”. All businesses today are supported by IT systems. If everyone who took out a policy just paid their premium and then held their policy until it expired, the system required to support that would be quite simple. If you need to allow people to make changes to their names and addresses, which might require changes to premiums, or to cancel the policies altogether, and get refunds, then additional functionality has to be designed, and the programs have to be written, tested and implemented, and you end up with a bigger system. Then, every time there’s another change to the system – even if it’s got nothing to do with the business, such as an operating system upgrade, the whole system has to be re-tested, just to make sure that it still works properly (and recent glitches at the banks are evidence of what can happen if you don’t do that). So the more complex the system, the more costs are involved, and different companies choose to recoup them in different ways. But please don’t imagine that when someone hits a key on a keyboard there’s an army of fairies behind the screen that get the job done for free!!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Jenny – I’ve already mentioned that a change of address could affect risk, but can you explain why a simple name change (assuming no other complicating factors) should be so expensive. My insurer wanted to charge me to register the fact that I had retired, as you can read about at the top of the page.

I take your point that there can be complicating factors that we are probably not were of, but would you agree that there might be some profiteering going on?

Sometimes I feel that we need insured against insurance companies. 🙂

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I had always imagined that insurance companies that suffer under the ordeal of managing big databases were in receipt of lots of big premiums and could enjoy the benefits of the economies of scale enabling them to pass a portion of those economies onto their policyholders. Shows how easy it is to get the wrong impression.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Member

I actually agree wholeheartedly with Jenny.

Tthe process of the consumer bodies and the media in concentrating on cheapest headline price does distort the market as firms cut premiums and try to recover costs and profits from another area is generally understood.

Now perhaps we could regulate by law, by industry standards, for a set of charges that must be made to remove the confusion. However perhaps it is worth looking at other countries insurance markets to see they handle it and then choose the best idea[s].

Bear in mind some countries have National ID cards which may simplify greatly the task of correctly identifying customers and preventing fraudulent claims – a benefit to overall system costs.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I think the prospects of further legislation to regulate the peripheral activities of the insurance companies [or any other industry] are pretty slender in present circumstances and it is more likely that ‘drip pricing’ will spread. Most of the major UK insurers are active in other markets worldwide, or at least in Europe, so their bad British habits will be exported overseas and their unfavourable foreign practices will be introduced here. The only way to constrain these tendencies is to continue exerting consumer power. So far as I can see no contraventions of regulatory conditions are occurring, and indeed it is arguable that the market is more competitive when there is a multiplicity of policy terms and conditions so that customers can select the package that best suits their needs.

Since it seems to me that anybody can make any number of bothersome calls, or send incomprehensible letters, to an insurance company without penalty, loyal policy-holders should be entitled to one free change of details each year per policy to cope with the normal circumstances of life [without which there would be no need for insurance companies].

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Being able to make changes free of charge once a year is not sufficient, John. Insurance companies require you to keep information up to date. Your premium should cover the cost of making minor changes that do not affect the risk covered, whichever company you use.

I can remember my insurance companies covering loan cars when mine was off the road for a few days. I was very grateful and surprised that they made no charge.

I do not accept that charges for trivial changes to insurance records are inevitable. When I retired I informed the insurance company as I was required to do and refused to pay for them to record this information. It helped that I had already told them a couple of months earlier when I renewed my motor insurance, but perhaps more people should refuse to pay for a service the companies should provide.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I agree with that. Other service providers don’t charge for such things but insurance companies seem to have us over a barrel; it’s like it or lump it and it’s incredible how we got into this position with them. Industry spokespeople say it’s all because it’s a highly competitive industry [i.e. it should cost us more than it does already!]. Wait for the sting when the higher Insurance Premium Tax rate comes into force on 4 January 2016 – up from 5% to 6% [doesn’t sound bad but it’s a 20% increase in the tax payable without any allowance for any rise in the premium].

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I think Jenny makes a fair point about the cost of administration and the capital needed to support it. The alternative to making charges for changes is to add something on to everyone’s premiums to cover the cost of those who do make changes.
I imagine when all this was done on paper and through the post the costs, with labour time, were more, took longer and it was less reliable.
Nothing is for nothing, is it?

Profile photo of alfa
Member

I don’t know if we are typical, but in many years, we have made 2 no-fault car claims totalling about £2500, and 2 house contents claims totalling about £2000.

Without looking at the actual figures, I would guess we are paying over £600 this year for car, house and buildings insurance.

So although, the cost of admin needs recouping, they have had a fair amount of profit out of us already so charging £75 for a name change seems rather a lot to me.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Sorry, should have said car, house contents and buildings insurance.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I have not made a motor or property insurance claim since 1974 [for which I am grateful] and fortunately have never been charged for any changes of details when moving home or changing cars – existing policies have been amended and continued until renewal. I might have been paying above average for the policies, however, and I think things have tightened up more recently.

Member
Michelle says:
25 September 2015

I recently had to renew my car insurance and was shocked to find that many insurers are now charging £10 for a windscreen repair!

It’s not ordinarily something I would check but having only recenty had a repair it was at the front of my mind.

Another sneaky charge!!!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Glassdoctors charge £60 for a chip repair. Insurers should, as in your case, notify you of changes in conditions so you have the choice to accept or shop around. Hopefully putting a minimal charge on like this might help keep premiums down.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have taken out car insurance with NFU Mutual, thanks to a large price hike from RIAS. One of the features of NFU is that they offer the opportunity to update details without charge, and it’s recommended by Which?

In my view it should be a requirement for companies to make changes free of charge unless there is a change in risk – for example moving to a different area.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

It will cost money administratively to make a change to a policy and this should be paid for by those who make the change, not subsidised by everyone else. But we should pay what it costs, which should not be a lot.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

You have suggested that we should pay what it costs to make amendments, but should we also pay to contact customer services or even make a complaint? It certainly costs money to provide these services. For some years we have had premium numbers used to contact customer services, no doubt to cut these calls and recoup some of the costs of providing them.

If it does not cost a lot then why not just include it as part of the charge? Looking back at the example I gave at the top of this page, I told my motor insurer the date that I would retire, trying to be helpful and keep my record accurate. I think I was quite justified in saying that I did not wish to pay the charge in the circumstances.

Member
Edward says:
6 October 2016

[This comment has been removed at the request of the commenter. Thanks, mods]

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Perhaps you should get the police report to back up your story and send that to the insurer to show you were not involved in an accident.

Member

Having changed address, I remember that the broker I used (Commercial Vehicle Direct) will try to charge me £50 to notify a change of address. Does anyone know if there is a way of challenging this charge?