/ Money

Fed up with the insurance auto renewal merry-go-round?

A carousel on a beach front

We’ve recently heard that the Financial Conduct Authority is going to launch an investigation into car and home insurance companies, to make sure they’re treating their customers fairly at renewal time.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is going to look at the way that insurance companies regularly offer their existing customers higher premiums at renewal time than the premiums offered to new customers.

There’s a fear that certain groups of people, for example those who don’t have the time or ability to shop around online, are being penalised for simply accepting their renewal quotation.

When we carried out our own research on insurance renewals last year, you told us you were tired of playing the renewal ‘game’. I’m sure most of you would prefer to be rewarded for your loyalty with lower premiums.

However, many loyal customers told us that their insurers offered new customers rates that were several hundred pounds cheaper than their renewal quotes. And others told us that when they shopped around and found cheaper quotes, their insurers would often match that price.

But should you have to work so hard to get your prices down if your insurer can clearly insure you for less?

Playing the renewals game

On top of the problem of expensive renewal quotes, there’s also the issue of insurance policies that automatically renew. Insurers will often renew your policy automatically, usually at a higher premium rate, if you don’t inform your insurer that you want to cancel it by a certain date.

Insurance companies will write to you or call you in advance of the renewal date to let you know what your new premium will be, and ask if you’re happy to renew. But how easy is it for people to miss this letter in the post, or forget to cancel in time? To make matters more difficult, insurance companies won’t usually tell you the previous year’s rate – making it difficult for you to compare the new price with the old one.

Still, insurers maintain that auto-renewals are helpful for time-pressed policyholders who may not have the opportunity to re-arrange their cover.

So how do you find your way around the insurance renewal maze? And what’s your opinion of automatic renewals? Is it a sneaky trick, or a useful time saver?

Comments
Profile photo of william
Member

They would be useful time savers if the renewal quote was competitive compared to a quote for a new customer, but as they’re not, then they currently serve no useful purpose as you have to switch to a new company to get the better deals with cashback as well.

Here’s hoping the FCA actually achieve something, and hopefully by October when I need to renew.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I may be in a minority of one here, but I am sceptical about statements such as “you told us you were tired of playing the renewal ‘game’.” as if that was everybody. I wonder how scientific the questions and survey were – I don’t know. However, I also query the culture expressed that some “don’t have the time or ability to shop around online”. If you are concerned about minimising your insurance cost, you should be prepared to put a bit of effort into achieving it. Even an acceptable renewal quote might be bettered by another company – things change.
I have two motor policies that I arrange directly. I look at the renewal cost and decide whether to shop around the Which? best buys. It’s always been easy and successful, and I have not had to change provider much. Another is dealt with through a broker, who advises if the current policy still meets my requirements; this year he proposed a new insurer and saved me around 20%.

It only needs to be done once a year, you can do it on-line, by phone, or through a broker.

You expect to shop around for food, fuel, clothes, white goods – why is insurance so different and seemingly too much effort?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Well, I’m tired of playing the renewal game, and I know others who are. Perhaps Which? is right here.

Let us spare a thought for the elderly, people coping with illness, or family problems. Why should greedy companies be allowed to exploit them.

Profile photo of Avril
Member

I agree wholeheartedly, having spent all afternoon arranging insurance and losing £55 because I immediately changed my mind about the policy I had and which is not yet in effect until 7 November. Heaven help the elderly.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

Shopping around is one thing and of course if you want a competitive price you need to check out the options.
But finding, as I did, that a significant saving can be made by not renewing a policy but just taking out a new identical policy with the same company is madness .

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

This is good news, and long overdue. Commonsense suggests that companies should offer better prices to loyal customers, especially those that have no claims. Putting up prices beyond what a new customer would pay is pure greed, so thank goodness the Financial Conduct Authority is taking action.

Profile photo of Jennifer Davis
Member

Aside from the issue that shopping around can be very difficult for some people, I can’t help but feel that insurance companies are treating their customers with a little contempt.

It just doesn’t seem right to me that companies ‘reward’ loyal customers with inflated prices to potentially subsidise the cost of attracting new customers.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Switching insurance companies also costs the companies money, and it is customers who foot the bill – whether they switch or not.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I think it is a little naive to expect companies that exist primarily for the benefit of their shareholders to act in altruistic ways toward their customers, unless they see it as a way to improve profits. And, of course, if it did improve profits they would, but loyalty per se as a factor does not seem to be in the frame.
I am, as well as others, also a little irritated by these practises – particularly when the AA each year reduces my renewal membership fee, on request, by around 40%! However it requires just a bit of effort to resolve – a phone call. I would still check what the RAC or Green Flag etc were offering to see if I was getting the best deal, so that effort still required.
Where do you draw the line? New customers at BT, Sky, for example, can get 6 months rental or subscription for half price. Wht not all customers? Because they want to attract extra custom. Do you ban that? How many introductory offers do you see where you get it free for a month – but leave your credit card details so that, when you forget to cancel you are then tied in to a contract? Cynical perhaps, but presumably effective at generating business.
Nationwide originally gave me a £25 voucher if I took out their car insurance. As it happens it proved competitive so I did – existing customers did not get £25 off.
Legislate and these companies will find other ways – I have never thought marketting a totally honourable profession but that is their job.
Whilst I sympathise with the view that some people have more difficulty in dealing with this than others, look at the reverse of this. A much larger number of people have now the means to search for the best deals than was ever possible before the internet.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

OK, maybe I am a bit naive, Malcolm, but it is time that corporate social responsibility was extended to curb what companies get up to to make profits at the expense of the public. Many of the discussions on Which? Conversation focus on issues related to corporate greed.

You are right in suspecting that you are in the minority. 🙂

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I think “corporate social responsibility” is a secondary issue for companies in the real world – they exist to make lawful profits in a competitive environment. It’s the way the capitalist world is – I am neither condoning nor condeming it, just putting foward my view as to how business works. You are not likely to change it. Many business make modest profits – competition sees to that, so “corporate greed” is not normally an appropriate description (paying excessive salaries, bonuses and severance payments without proper scrutiny I think is greed, but we seem to allow it to happen in public as well as private sectors).
I’m not so sure about being in the minority if I hold a view on the way the business world functions – that was my point, not necessarily that I believed there were better. Please don’t confuse the two issues 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Well, I am glad we have Which? helping to keep companies in order.

Do you think the Financial Conduct Authority was right to get involved, as I do, or are they interfering with good competitive business practice?

Member
Em says:
27 July 2013

Malcolm R – I think you are missing the point. Sure, we can all shop around to find the best deals and so we should.

However, insurance companies are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (ex-“FSA”) and, since they deal with money and not consumer durables or services, they must operate to higher standards than a high street retailer or utility provider. If the company and their shareholders do not like the idea of operating in a regulated environment and playing by those rules, they need to look for profit-making opportunities elsewhere.

The FSA has long promoted the idea that customers of financial services products (which includes insurance) must be treated fairly – or “TCF” in the jargon. One of the outcomes of TCF is that:

“Consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale.”

Where an existing customer is charged more for an insurance product than they were the previous year, the increase has not been explained, and other customers are paying less for identical or similar cover, then the customer has not been “provided with clear information” or been kept “appropriately informed” of their options at renewal.

So, you are right that the consumer has responsibility to shop around for a better deal, but a WORSE deal cannot be offered to the customer without breaching the FCA guidelines that are there to regulate the market and protect the consumer from unethical practices.

If we all take the trouble to make a complaint when we spot this type of behavour, it would soon stop. You only need to express your dissatisfaction over the phone and the insurance company are obliged to log and formally deal with it.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

em, I see two separate issues. One is dealing with the situation as you find it – you are not happy with your quote so the immediate action that benefits you is to find another provider – hopefully one you will find better to deal with in the future and offering cover at a better price. The second is to try to change the situation if you think it is operating outside the guidelines or the law – that takes longer. I’d be interested to know where the FSA made a rule on the cost to new and existing customers.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“Discover Which? for £1.00

Sign up for a 1 month trial and you will receive:……..”

Are all members, as a reward for their loyalty, having their annual subscriptions reduced accordingly to get one month for £1 (£8.25 off mine please!). Or is this a ploy to attract, and keep, new members who give you their credit card details and don’t cancel?

Tongue in cheek.

Profile photo of Adrian
Member

The renewal farce is bad enough but how about this one:
I’m in the throes of buying a new house. There is a small tributary about 180 meters away so I own up to the insurer. That’ll be another £50 per year please. But wait, says I, the Environment Agency flood maps show that the anticipated maximum flood is about 170 metres away and there has been no flood since 1947 when the records started. That doesn’t affect it says Mr insurer. Crazy, says I, the house is, actually, 15 metres (49′) above the river/stream level – oh, insurers only look at the plan distances, they don’t take vertical differences into account! I was speechless – so we’re into pushing water up hill now?
Perhaps Which should be looking at this kind of utter stupidity (presumably borne out of the tick sheet mentality – has nobody got any common sense anymore?).

Member
Potpot says:
19 July 2013

I’ve just been caught out by quote me happy who auto renewed my car insurance. They claim they sent me an email that I have not got. Therefore, unaware of this I renewed elsewhere. Today I got my credit card bill showing both insurance costs so I contacted quote me happy asking for a full refund. They stated that I was advised on my POLICY SCHEDULE last year that they would do auto renewal. Furthermore as the payment was taken against my credit card more than 14 days ago the cooling off period has expired so they will charge me a £53 cancellation charge. advised them that I did not recieve their emails and did not opt in to auto renewal and would not have been made aware of this practice until after I bought the policy last year. Therefore I considered this as unfair practice. At this moment they are not budging. Any advice?

Profile photo of looping
Member

Take them to the Small Claim Court.

Member
Anon the mouse says:
20 July 2013

The auto-renewal nightmare is only part of the problem. Mine magically halved when I rang to cancel it, they prey on those that don’t check or don’t have time.

Claiming on a policy makes the auto-renewal look postively nice in comparison.
14 days to respond letters sent out second class, meaning you might get 7 if you’re lucky.
Repeating the same thing over and over and over and over and over again….could you just repeat the details one more time please?
Specialist reports required, but they don’t have specialists or a list of where to go. Also this is at your own expense and they refuse to reimbursed for doing their work for them.
Documents sent completed and ready to sign, actually blank and need filling in again.
2 weeks to even start to look at a claim. Which will only reduce to 1 week when you ask for the official complaints dept details.
Everything done via post, print, sign, scan and email not supported, making everything takes weeks longer.
All calls are 0845 or 0870 and frequently take over half an hour.
Compaints take upto 9 weeks to resolve, but claims will be closed in 2 weeks. No extensions to claim timescales allowed,
In short you pay money to then do their work for them and be treated as though you should be locked up for daring to use something you actually pay for.
Unwritten terms and conditions that you are only notified of when you make a claim.
Written terms and conditions are for them to punish you and refuse to pay a claim.
Pointing out that they are breaching their own terms and conditions is not relevant, only you breaching them is.
On the plus side the official complaints dept seem to have half an idea and answer quickly.

Member
Bruel says:
2 June 2014

I asked the RAC for a renewal quote approximately 4 weeks before expiry. They could not give me one on the grounds that my request was being made too soon. I subsequently took out insurance with another company and to start on the expiry date of the RAC quote.

The RAC had not made it clear to me that their policy was subject to auto renewal. Had I known this I would have requested it not to apply or I would have considered another company. When I did receive the RAC quote (which to be fare was competitive) I had already made an agreement with another company. After reading the headline figure I binned the RAC quote without further consideration –end of story, or so I thought. I did not consider ringing the RAC to say that I had changed insurance company and because my bank details had changed I was also confident that the matter was now closed.
One day (24 hours) before the renewal date I received an email from RAC thanking me for auto-renewing! I do not check my e-mails daily and so actually read this a few days later when I received a letter from the RAC thanking me for renewing. I was not concerned about this and thought that everything would come to a close when the bank request was turned down.
In fact the RAC are now accusing me of a breach of the terms and conditions, they are asking for an administrative fee of around £25 and a policy fee of around £90. I have refused to pay but they are now pursuing me for this through their debt recovery office. I do not know what the outcome of this will be. Neither do I know where I actually stand (any advice comments appreciated).
Auto-renewal does have its benefits. However I have always wanted to shop around myself. This helps to keep my cost down and I like to think that it goes towards keeping insurance premiums competitive generally. Auto-renewal is definitely out for me and companies should make it completely clear with the option to opt-in for the service rather than make an automatic assumption. This was certainly not the case with my RAC experience. In future I will explicitly request that my card details should not be used again without my permission and that I refuse to accept auto-renewal. In my particular case the RAC is making a more sinister attempt to rip me, and presumably other people off.

Member
John says:
5 August 2013

I have been looking at quotes to renew my household insurance and find some companies are being a bit sneaky in that there is a compulsory excess which is not shown along side the voluntary excess so that you might find when making a claim that the excess is double what you though you had arranged

Profile photo of looping
Member

It is not just Motor and Home insurance. I found an auto-renewal clause in a new Dental plan from my Dentist. If I cancel the DD and they continue to charge, I will challenge them in Court.

Profile photo of william
Member

Just had a renewal quote from a well known British Gas supplier for home cover, for being loyal I can pay £252. Yet if I was a fickle switcher and was new I can pay £216 and get £40 cashback. Thats approx a 30% discount for being new.

Total rip off for an existing customer.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Well done William. May I recommend that you ring back and explain why you are leaving. I do with insurance companies. Some say that they may be able to match quotes and I tell them that they should have thought about this before they had lost a customer. 🙂

I am normally much more polite on the phone, but prepared to make exceptions.

Profile photo of william
Member

Hi Wavechange, Already tried, they only managed to knock it down to around the £216 and wouldn’t go any further. 🙁

So I’ll wait the 6 months and then re-apply as a new customer.

I’ve also been cheeky and tweeted @theFCA about it, and suggested the simplest fix is to ban the time limit you’re forced to wait to apply as a new customer. Sorry new customers

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

That’s a pity. At least they know why you are not renewing.

I have always wondered about the rules on being a new customer. The only time I have done this was when I rejoined the RAC as a ‘new customer’, after a gap of about nine years.

Profile photo of william
Member

It seems its something that each company can decide on themselves. British Gas used to be 6 month, yet a couple of car insurance companies I bounce between are 12 months each.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks for that. I had assumed that it was a good strategy to declare that I had been a previous customer and that I had not had a claim then or since. That has not worked for me, so I will be a ‘new’ customer in future unless asked.

Member
Pete says:
23 August 2013

I renewed my insurance with LV this year. I have been with them and there associated company Frizzell for years. I did not shop around as I have had two accidents in the last five years: only minor ones not damaging my car. I thought it was a waste of time looking elsewhere in these circumstances: This years renewal was £360, with protected no-claims discount 75%

After renewing I went into LV’s website and put in all of my details and declared the accidents and to my amazement I got a quote of £219 with the protected no-claims discount continuing on as before.There are just two parallel paths in car insurance companies. One is for the purpose of ripping-off loyal customers and the other for new customers.

I did the same with my house insurance last year and got a reduction of £300. I asked the company why and they just said my original policy was an “old” policy.

Profile photo of william
Member

As I don’t think the FCA will either a) go far enough or b) quick enough, I’m currently thinking about starting another epetition ( even though I won’t get enough votes ) …

But at the moment I can see this doing more harm than good as companies fight for other ways to “skin us alive” ,as any argument I try to raise for treating customers fairly ( e.g. allowing everyone the same “new customer” deals) is likely to move companies even further away from rewarding loyal customers with discounts.

Here’s what I have so far ( comments welcomed ) And FYI I’m still not 100% happy with the wording …

“Many companies prevent existing “loyal” customers from taking advantage of their best deals by only allowing new customers access to them by adding an arbitrary time frame for being treated as a new customer, whilst very rarely rewarding existing customers for their loyalty. Restrictions such as this should be made illegal.”

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Checking my renewals for car insurance – one with the Co-operative renewed 6% lower than last year, another with Nationwide 10% lower, both without any negotiation. Which? recommended providers. Choose who you deal with carefully and it’s likely you’ll be treated well. Vote with your feet (or wheels) and maybe the not-so-good will take notice?

Profile photo of william
Member

I would have thought car insurance should be cheaper for the majority as a result of the European directive that come into force last November/December ?

Although according to a report in the telegraph from the AA, its likely to be about better fraud detection and making it harder to get whiplash claims agreed …

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/insurance/motorinsurance/10203809/Car-insurance-premiums-fall-by-10pc-says-AA.html

And I wonder if the Co-op reduction of 6% compared to others has anything to do with them making a huge loss this year and probably needing a bailout.

Profile photo of Clint Kirk
Member

After my experience with my car insurance today, I am convinced that there need to be some legal controls on insurance auto-renewal.

I received an email from Aviva titled “Your insurance is due for renewal” and had a big yellow button labelled “My Policy”. This took me to the Aviva customers’ online page. As soon as I logged in, I got a message saying “Thank you for renewing your policy for another year. Your new policy expiry date is 20 October 2014.” If I want to cancel it, I have to ring an 0845 number (unless of course I use SayNoTo0870.) I think insurance companies should not be allowed to get away with such dubious tactics.

Member
Michelle says:
5 February 2014

Something needs to be done about the way these companies conduct business. This is my very recent experience.
I pay for my home insurance (Buildings & Contents) monthly by direct debit. I received my renewal notice and quote about 3 weeks ago. I was previously paying £18.50 a month, I have made no claims, I have not missed or been late with any payments but Direct Dial increased the Monthly amount to £27.30. They also stated that if I did not contact them they would take this as acceptance of the quote. I contacted them to let them know I would not be taking out insurance with them. I was not surprised when they managed to discount it to within a few pence of what I paid last year. I told them that I still would not be renewing with them as they tried to rip me off and they should have offered me the best price to start with. They then told me that the price they quoted in their letter was the price they got from Legal and General and they had not applied their own discount at that point. “what rubbish, the quote was on Direct Dials letter headed paper”.
I then went on to a price comparison site and the quote I was about to accept was also with Legal and General. When filling in the details I stipulated that I required, accidental cover, the excess I was prepared to pay and to pay Monthly by D.D. Quote was fine and so I clicked to go through to their own site and check the details before purchasing. All was fine until the last question, “how did you pay for last years insurance” this was marked as annually and so I changed it to Monthly. This then increased my payment by a further 96p a month. I know it is not much but it is the principal and the fact they are sneaking that in after you leave the comparison site. If I changed it to “no previous Insurance” it went back down in price. I phoned Legal and General and they couldn’t justify it and would not remove it. Also, their standard accidental cover is next to worthless as it covers very few accidents and only certain items. If you want the normal level of accidental cover, they another £3 a month. Hence I will be looking else where.

Member
Mike Haville says:
20 August 2014

It is fun every year with the AA, this year had a renewal quote of £174 (up from £129), went on confused.com and got AA quote of £154 with breakdown (but a high comp. excess). Got on phone complained and got excess lowered, still with breakdown for £160. This brings my insurance down to about £120 as breakdown is about £40.
It is a bit of a pain, but I try to check market on energy, insurance and savings every time a contract finishes, the problem is when I am abroad / busy and the change gets under the wire and then you do feel very hard done by.

Member
David Burtenshaw says:
8 September 2014

I am very perplexed and annoyed with Privilege Insurance Company. I am a very busy man and never check my automatic renewals for my home insurances until just recently when a friend told me how much he was paying for Household Insurance. When i checked i was horrified at the premium. For buildings insurance alone i was paying £1600. This figure back in 2005 was £490, but ever since they have renewed automatically and i have never checked. I went on to a comparison site and found exactly the same policy for buildings but also including contents for £450. Surely these companies must have a “duty of care” to their customers to provide us with renewals that are at least within the current market prices and not £1000 more expensive than they offer on line. This is daylight robbery and i have been paying these outrageous premium since 2007. I really want this investigated and would love to know how many other people are in the same boat.I bought this up with the Insurance Company and they offered to re-imburse my monthly premiums i had paid for this years policy so far ( 2 monthly installments of the full £1600 annual premium ) then put me through to their sales team to put me on a new policy at the £450 rate including contents cover . They then said there was nothing they can do about previous years overcharging of premiums and when i asked why they replied “we just can’t “. That is like being told told the longer we rip you off the more we make out of you until you catch us, and when we are questioned we will just offer a small recompense to keep the customer quiet, never mind the previous 7years of hyper inflated out of the true market price premiums they have been charging. To be honest i’m extremely insulted by this and where is their duty of care to their customers, the whole process stinks.

Member
Pam Thompson says:
26 November 2014

it is morally and ethically wrong that a company can say “give us £XXXX and if you don’t actually tell us that you won’t, we’ll take it from you”.I got my renewal from Hastings Direct, for £255.99. An increase on the previous year for no reason. I do a piddling 2000 a year. Yes, 2000 only. I have no speeding tickets, my car is always MOT’d etc and I have no criminal convictions. For them it’s money for old rope. In any case, the cats knocked the renewal letter off the side and the new dog tore it up so I went on facebook and told the company that I wouldn’t be having the insurance because I’d gone on a comparison site and with the same company, was quoted £147. I pay for the full year. So on the 11th November this year, they took the money from my card, even though the renewal date was 22nd November. THEN on the 25th November, they took out the £255.99, leaving my account overdrawn and I got charged £75 for 3 unpaid direct debits!!!!!
I have just been on the phone to Hastings and they will be refunding the £255.99 but in 5 days because that’s how they work. So no doubt more direct debits will be refused costing me even more money! This is a SHOCKING way to do business. Tesco doesn’t send me loads of groceries and charge me for them, just because I shopped there last month and this is no different! I am on a very small fixed income and I am already £75 down. If more direct debits happen, I’ll be charged £25 for each one and will go into next month with my whole month’s pension gone on fees with no money left to buy food for myself. I doubt that anything will ever be done to stop this theft because rich and powerful people have no morals, they protect their rich and powerful insurance owning chums and regard us poor saps and mere profit earning numbers and not actual people. The whole financial system is corrupt and morally and ethically bankrupt!
I am sitting here freezing cold with no money available to buy a sack of coal (my only heating source is the old range). I have no food in the house but some cheap packets of noodles and this is how I will have to live for another month, freezing and starving. Isn’t life in the 21st Century UK wonderful?

Member

Insurance companies are, not to put too fine a point on it, utter scum bags. Completely without ethics or morals. Every single year they try to renew my policy, and occasionally are even stupid enough to take an unauthorised payment. And every year I point out that I had previously informed them in writing at the point of purchase that renewal was not authorised, and that I therefore require £50 compensation for the inconvenience their unauthorised actions have caused.

They always, always deny that I told them I didn’t want to renew. Without fail. You can predict this response as easily as you can predict the sun coming up tomorrow. That’s when I ask them if in that case they received my proof of no claims?, since the policy would have been invalid without it? When they say yes, of course we received *that*, I then go on to point out that my instruction not to renew was written on the same document, in red ink, along with a note informing them that I will charge them £50 if they fail to follow my instruction not to renew and not to accept my business if this is a problem. At this point, they invariably pay up. Only one has been stupid enough not to (Arnold Clark insurance), and they ended up having to pay me £200 compensation when I escalated the matter went to the FSA.

I see that insurance companies paid the Conservatives a total of £5 million since the last general election. No doubt so that the government would continue to turn blind eye to the way that the “automatic renewal” scam is used to rip people off. Many of which people, like me, made their instructions clear, even though they may not have been as prepared as I’ve learned to be to prove the steps they took. Insurance companies will continue to trot out the old lie that their actions are somehow meant to benefit forgetful consumers who would otherwise simply be too stupid to make informed decisions about where and when to purchase insurance. In reality, we can all see from experiences like mine every year that it’s actually about providing them with plausible deniability when they try to rip customers off by being selectively deaf when failing to follow their instructions not to renew. Claiming that renewal is about helping customers is like ordering your groceries online from Tesco. Then finding that you’ve been billed for and sent more groceries the next week, with Tesco claiming it’s for your own good as you’d only starve to death if they didn’t send you food you hadn’t asked for.

As I say, scum bags. Who only get away with their behaviour because they’ve paid off politicians to be able to break the law. I run a business. If I took payment from my customers without their consent, I could expect to be prosecuted for fraud and face a criminal conviction. The worst that happens to these charlatans is they get told to pay back what they’ve stoled, and occasionally have to pay compensation to the odd prepared consumer like me. Where is the incentive to behave ethically in that?

Member
Tony P says:
16 February 2015

I’m glad to see that this subject thread is still available but sad that still nothing has been done to control insurance companies automatic renewal policies.

Here’s the latest news my insurance company HALIFAX HOME INSURANCE (HHI) is trying to suggest to me for BUILDINGS & CONTENTS insurance renewal. (Whilst I was aware about the changes to the law about car insurance that may partly justify that automatic renewal is worthwhile in these cases: which I personally still disagree with, I wasn’t aware that it was also a factor in the voluntary buildings and contents insurance market!)

First the background: I took B&C insurance out with HHI in August 2013 for £568.12. I’ve previously always paid insurance premiums by credit or debit card in full but as HHI offered a no interest monthly payment by direct debit this seemed to make practical sense. As I always do I scrutinised the web form that I completed to purchase the cover and am confident that at no point was a clause bought to my attention that this policy would automatically be renewed. Whilst I wasn’t specifically looking for it, had I come across it I would have revoked it as I always do with car insurance.
So when it came close to renewal as always I started shopping around and found an identical policy with iGO4 that was only £315.50! Wow I thought, what a saving so of course I took out this policy, not thinking that I had to take any further action with HHI.

For irrelevant reasons I haven’t been checking my bank balances as regularly as I should and didn’t spot until January that HHI had continued to debit my account with INCREASED monthly payments totalling by that time £403!! (They had increased the annual premium by £130!!)

I immediately rang HHI, asking how this had come about. I advised HHI that I had checked all of the policy documentation that I received when I took the policy out as well as the policy booklet and automatic renewal was not mentioned anywhere! I didn’t get an explanation but instead a very apologetic guy who said he would send me the forms to claim a refund for dual insurance.
He advised me that in cases of dual insurance both the insurers pay half of the refund. So I questioned this and asked if I was going to get a full refund which the guy implied I would.
I’ve finally received the paperwork from HHI and it states something different “…In cases of dual insurance, it’s USUAL for each insurer to provide a 50% refund of the premiums you have paid to THEM, during any period of dual insurance…”

In other words, as the period of dual cover was six months, I will get half of the 6 months cost of my premium back that I paid directly to/ from iGO4 and the other half of the six months from HHI. So given that my new policy this year was less than half the price of the ramped up auto renewal policy that I never consented to I will be out of pocket by £151!!
I’ve now written to iGO4 asking them why they should be liable for anything given the conduct of HHI, and I’ve written to HHI stating that I dispute their ‘usual practice’ and demand a full refund of the £402 they have deducted from my bank account without any authorisation.

Finally, whilst this wasn’t an Internet based policy I’ve gone online to see what HHI say on their website. Interestingly it states that in the case of insurance policies they will NOT automatically renew policies paid for by debit or credit cards but they WILL automatically renew those financed by direct debit payments!! How confusing is that. Is that perhaps why they offer 0% direct debit agreements when others charge for this?

[This comment has been edited for the use of defamatory language. Thanks, mods]

Member
Clifford Herman says:
18 February 2015

I personally think that insurance companies exploit customers by providing an opt-out option rather than an opt-in option when it comes to renewal. Very often people forget to contact the insurer, as I have, and end up paying the renewal costs and being penalised when you wish to cancel. I think its unethical and the Financial Conduct Authority should put a stop to the opt-out fashion these insurers offer. I think an insurance company has the right to enquire whether the customer wish to renew, offer a competitive deal, and wait for the customer to let them know if they like the deal. If the customer does not contact them, the insurance should not automatically renew. Companies knows that when there is an opt-out option, the customer has to contact them to cancel, and this way they have the opportunity to haggle their way back into your life and force you to go with their deal. It’s wrong and I hope the FCA does something about that too.

Member
Jonathan says:
1 June 2015

I’ve just been hit with a ridiculous auto-renewal quote from Quote Me Happy (ironic name)

I was paying £94 per month with them for a full 12 month term, no claims made. When renewal time came, I happened to be on holiday. They notified me via 1 email, which is easy to miss if it goes into your junk folder with all the spam.

The next month I saw £192 debited from my account. £192! On checking, they had automatically renewed my insurance at a premium of £192 per month!!! More than double what I had been paying with them the year before. Total and utter rip off.

What’s more, I turn 25 in October, which is bound to affect my insurance costs. A quick search online and I managed to find a policy for £570 for a full YEAR! Needless to say I’ve gone with this one and cancelled that extortionate renewal.

Nothing like repaying loyal customers Quote Me Angry. Thanks a lot

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Member

Jonathan, loyalty rarely exists. Except perhaps through a broker – my car is up for renewal and the broker searched the market to find the best for my circumstances. This year it has gone up from £221 to £231 (sorry!). Their fee for the service is £12.50. They look at my needs and the policy terms before making a recommendation. So it might be worth trying that in future

Member
Lee smith says:
25 June 2015

I received a letter from Budget asking fir a copy of there fixed loan agreement to be posted back or I would have a £15 fine imposed ! This is the only letter I have had regarding renewal of my contents insurance. So I checked back on my emails and there is two previous emails regarding renewal but I haven’t read them.
I phoned budget to cancel the policy but guess what I can but it will cost me £35
I never asked for this to be renewed ( didn’t ask last year either and had the same problem but let it go thinking it was too much hassle ) does anyone know how I stand or do I have to pay for this ?
Help please

Member
Amanda Hopkins says:
20 July 2015

Has any progress actually been made on this? I’m happy to shop around, but I do NOT want a policy that automatically renews, I do want to be able to opt out during the initial purchasing process, and I do want to be told clearly – and certainly well before I’ve almost finishing the process of making a purchase – that the insurer has adopted this sharp practice and offers no opt out until renewal time, especially if it’s then obfuscated on the renewal documents.

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Member

An advantage of automatic renewal is that if you forget, or overlook a reminder, you do not inadvertently drive around uninsured. Insurers should ensure they remind you in plenty of time so you can shop around if you choose not to renew with them, and last year’s premium should be shown so you see the size of any increase. Still the best bet is to put the renewal date in your diary, calendar or on your computer as it is still your responsibility to ensure you are properly insured.

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Member

It’s not just the people who can forget to renew their insurance. Towergate forgot to renew cover for a charity that I’m a trustee of and our Secretary failed to spot this. Fortunately Towergate realised their mistake and extended our cover for a few weeks and we have now switched to a different insurer.

I can see the benefit of automatic renewal of insurance but I suspect that some companies use this as a way of pushing up premiums in the hope that they are not noticed. Santander did this with my home insurance.

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Member

I forgot about the renewal as I was searching for a new vehicle at that time. When I realised they had auto renewed it was around two weeks later. I was ready to trade in my Golf 1.9se tdi for a Golf 2.0 tdi cabriolet. I phoned my insurer and explained what had happened and to see if they could transfer the vehicle details, they said not a problem. I was paying around £350 a year fully comp on the Golf 1.9 se tdi and when they re-quoted me for the new vehicle it was £899.00 on top of what I am already paying, that’s around £1250 for the cabriolet. I told them that was ridiculous and I had quotes for under £400. They asked straight out if I wanted to cancel and of course I said yes because I was not prepared to pay that price. They cancelled within seconds and that was that. I was only into the renewal for two weeks and now they want £75.00 for cancelling. I feel that I was pressured out of the insurance policy because of the high price and that they would win with profit either way. I have over 20 years no claims but cant prove past 12 years and I am 50 years of age. I have not paid there demands yet and its gone to recovery. Do I need to pay this or have I a case for unfairness. Just feel done by donedeal.

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Member

Karl, one advantage of autorenewal is that you were not driving around uninsured for a few weeks. Did the payment they requested cover the cost of the insurance for those weeks?

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Member

I think it’s £50 cancellation and £25 for the two weeks I was covered. I would have stayed with the company had the change of vehicle price not been so high. I feel they have to justify the high cost of the new vehicle insurance as the top 15 companies wanted under £400. I chose AA for £385. Compared to £1250 donedeal wanted.

Member

My friend telephoned Santander on my behalf to cancel my home polcy which went up 50% ! They ignored it and renewed against my instruction. Surely this is theft? The credit card company Capital One have been instructed by me to refuse payment . The whole finance industry is a corrupt racket.

Member
James P says:
18 August 2016

I’m wondering why nothing has changed – this article a was 2013. Seems the rip off renewal strategy by car insurers is alive and well. I have just cancelled Admiral who are masters at ludicrous price increases. When will the FCA do something about this?

The review I have been posting everywhere I can:

A 7 year customer of Admiral.nevery year the same nonsense with renewal:

– ask for auto-renewal to be removed
– policy is auto-renewed
– price goes way up
– have to phone in to get them to reduce premium
– they reduce it

This year the auto-renewal was £977. The first phone call after auto-renewal (said I was taking up cooling off period) and it magically dropped by over £200 to £774. This was about 4 minutes into the call.

Found another policy for £635. Over £300 less than Admiral’s original renewal price. Cancelled it. Amusingly I received a call to upsell me their black box service for existing customers 3 days later “do you have access to customer notes?” Yes I do. “Have you read the notes on my record?” Oops. Looks like you’ve cancelled. Sorry!

To Admiral if you read this:

How awful to say after 7 years as your customer I felt satisfaction in cancelling and no longer being your customer. Although it is an industry-wide issue, the attempts to rip off customers at the point of renewal every year are so tiresome. You actually manage to breed disloyalty by acting in this way. Although churn is an industry norm, I would imagine the administrative cost of multiple calls to an agent, emails, policy changes and complaints all add up – perhaps you could look at these costs and reasses your approach to pricing renewals.

I do hope at some point consumer pressure and/or the regulator solve this farcical renewal situation. Admiral should be ashamed of their strategy and treatment of customers – I am ashamed of you and it does not reflect well on your brand.