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The Financial Conduct Authority confirms new measures to protect home and motor insurance customers from loyalty penalties.
In a move designed to protect the UK’s home and motor insurance customers, the FCA have announced a new set of regulations focused around preventing existing customers paying more for their insurance coverage than a new customer would.
In a 2018 market study, it was estimated that 6 million loyal customers who allowed their insurance policies to auto-renew spent roughly £1.2 billion more than required—money that consumers could have saved had they switched providers.
The effect of this ‘price walking’ is more severe than many consumers realise. It’s estimated that a home insurance customer who paid £130 for their first year of cover would end up paying £238 by their fifth year of cover with the same insurer.
FCA Executive Director Sheldon Mills commented ”‘These measures will put an end to the very high prices paid by many loyal customers. Consumers can still benefit from shopping around or negotiating with their current provider – but won’t be charged more at renewal just for being an existing customer.”
On top of these insurance pricing reforms, the FCA is additionally bringing in new regulations to help protect consumers and bring more transparency to the often murky waters of the insurance market:
- Easier cancellations of automatic renewals
- Stricter requirements on offering customers a fair price
- Additional reporting to the FCA to allow better market supervision
While the moves are a win for UK consumers, it may spell the end of especially low ‘welcome deals’, and will inevitably see insurers re-evaluate how they incentivise new customers to join them through discount bonuses and welcome gifts. A spokesperson at the Association of British Insurers admitted it was probable that insurers would “no longer be able to offer unsustainably low-priced deals to some customers.”
However, it is worth keeping in mind that while these welcome offers were often very generous, insurers eventually made their money back (and more) through gradual price increases, hoping customers wouldn't realise they could save by looking elsewhere.
One of the key drivers in the changes, a 2018 super-complaint by Citizens Advice, also pushed for changes in the markets for savings accounts, mortgages, mobile phone contracts and broadband, and noted that vulnerable sections of society, such as low-income households and the elderly, were most at risk of being a victim of annual price increases.
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How to avoid price walking
- Don’t be afraid to shop around, even if you’re happy with your current insurance provider—receiving a lower quote from elsewhere offers leverage with your existing provider if you feel you’re being overcharged.
- Gather quotes from multiple sources. While aggregators are a popular option, each site has a different set of insurers they partner with, so try a couple of different ones before making your decision. Keep in mind that many insurers also save their best deals for customers shopping directly, so take a look at a few websites and see what’s on offer.
- When it comes to mobile phones, paying off your handset as part of your contract will usually account for the majority of your monthly cost. If you can, look for SIM-only deals to avoid being overcharged.