/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Insurance T&Cs longer than Animal Farm? No wonder no one’s reading them

Animal Farm book

Let’s face it, insurance policy T&Cs aren’t top of anyone’s reading list. But when they’re longer than George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it’s no surprise we want to skim-read them. Or avoid them altogether.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking through car, home and travel insurance policy documents to assess them for clarity, length and layout.

We’re always told to read the terms and conditions to be clear about the cover we’re buying, but too often we’re left with the unenviable task of trawling through documents more than 50 pages long.

Insurance T&Cs are a never-ending story

We looked at 40 car, home and travel insurance policies. The longest we found was Admiral’s travel insurance document, which runs to 38,248 words. That’s longer than George Orwell’s Animal Farm or John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. And based on the national average reading speed of 300 words a minute, it would take me just over two hours to get through it.

Sentence length can also be an issue. The Plain English Campaign recommends sentences up to 20 words, but one sentence in Saga’s travel insurance policy stretches to 95 words.

Before I could even remotely understand this sentence, I had to keep going back to the beginning to read it over and over again. Experiences like this are enough to stop anyone from reading (and, crucially, understanding) the whole thing.

T&Cs should be shorter

Some insurers are getting it right by producing shorter policy documents. For example LV’s car insurance policy managed to do it in just under 7,000 words and 21 pages. So, if they can do it, why aren’t the other insurers doing the same?

The Financial Conduct Authority put companies on notice to simplify their policy documents, so hopefully we’ll be spending less time trying to tackle lengthy T&Cs in the not-too-distant future. You should be able to easily understand what you’re signing up to so you don’t get stung when you make a claim.

Have you read through the terms of your insurance and found it difficult to digest? Did it stop you from reading it in full? Perhaps you’ve had an insurance claim turned down due to an unexpected term or exclusion in your policy you didn’t know about?


I agree. Ts and Cs have been growing by the year and some are now reaching epic proportions. It’s probably time for the length alone to qualify them as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘unfair’ in their own right. That might at least have the effect of focussing the minds of the blurb writers.

It’s not simply the consumer who experiences difficulty, either; a few years ago I had a tussle with the Prudential who were arguing that my wife’s lost wedding ring wasn’t covered. Through dint of painstaking reading and argument, I was able to get them finally to concede that they hadn’t read their own policy in sufficient detail, and we won.

This is going to sound so sad, but i do enjoy reading T&C’s, i love finding ones where it’s so hard to understand, you then contact the comapny with a screen shot on Twitter, the company have no idea, then it goes higher and higher up the ladder.

Then 9 times out of 10 the T&C’s will get changed, plus depending on what company it is, they will give you a “gesture of goodwill”. So really you get paid for your time, plus the company changes the T&C’s to help other customers. Win Win.

Like i say, i know it’s a sad hobby, but I like it 🙂

Actually, it sounds rather nice 🙂

This caused me to look at my insurance T&Cs. House is with John Lewis – 39 A5 pages including definitions, how to claim, who to contact etc. Written as tables of cover on the left, and exclusions on the right. Easy to follow if you read it – but unlikely you will unless you have to make a claim. Car with LV – 22 A5 pages again easy to follow. What struck me though is the necessity to be given the full information they provide; so many different types of claims and circumstances, that both insurer and insured need to have spelled out to avoid misunderstanding when the time comes.

However, you are unlikely to study the full T&Cs when buying a policy, and you might get a nasty surprise when your claim is turned down or reduced. What I would like to see is a set of basic standard terms for all policies – a national standard – that have to be part of all companies’ insurance policies so we don’t have to worry about small-print exclusions. Then individual companies can offer “enhancements” on top of the basic conditions if they wish.

My policies (like most I expect) come with a summary of the cover. Useful in some ways, but can be misleading when you have a claim and find the details in the full-length T&Cs don’t allow what you thought you were getting.

Nowadays it is not always easy to get hold of a hard copy of insurance policies, especially for buildings and contents cover it seems, yet they do exist and can be procured. The versions available free on line are usually scanned versions of the printed policy document and their presentation is rarely optimised for reading on a computer screen, or even for printing off because the pagination is often disordered depending on the format and the scaling sometimes distorts the layout. There are sometimes large empty spaces and blank pages in a document designed to be held in the hand rather than viewed on a monitor. In my view this is unacceptable given the premiums people pay for the policies.

I have gradually eased away from John Lewis in favour of Nationwide who seem to have a very clear style of presentation and use of plain English. John Lewis seemed to favour grey print on off-white paper but at least their terms were well-written and kept simple; they took a comprehensive approach to cover rather than splitting hairs over details but there was a price for that which in a brand new house under an NHBC warranty was not justified.