/ 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
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.

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].

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!!

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. 🙂

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.

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.

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].