Consumer group calls for transparency over hidden insurance fees


New research has revealed that insurance companies have been increasing a wide variety of fees on their policies by up to 200 per cent over the past three years.

An investigation by Which? looked at the policies of 40 companies and it revealed that insurers typically charge consumers for such things as cancelling and altering a policy – and even setting one up.

Since the consumer body’s previous survey three years ago, nearly half of the insurers have increased administration or cancellation fees.

A report by the Guardian revealed that six insurers, including Churchill, More Than and Nationwide, have increased fees to make changes to a policy (such as getting married or moving house) by at least 50 per cent and eight companies have introduced new fees and charges.

The AA now charges £28 to set up a motor insurance policy while Hastings Direct charges £20 to renew a policy.

Which? described such additional fees as “sneaky” and pointed out that they are often hidden within more than a dozen pages of documents.

“Consumers are fed up with being hit with unexpected, additional costs for financial products that lead to them paying more than they bargained for,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.

“These fees can be hard to avoid, and people often don’t know what they’re really paying for.”

The group has launched a campaign under the name Stop Sneaky Fees and Charges, that will look for companies across five sectors to take action.

As well as insurance administration fees, these include bank overdraft charges, credit and balance transfer deals, default (missed or late payment) fees and mortgage set-up fees.

Speaking on behalf of the insurance sector, Hugh Savill, the Association of British Insurer’s director of regulation, told the Guardian: “Insurers are not interested in hiding any charges from their customers, and follow regulatory requirements so that any additional charges are clearly set out.”

“Changes in your circumstances, for example changing jobs or moving home, may require the insurer to reassess the risk, and if there is any change the need to prepare and issue new insurance documents. If you cancel early then the insurer needs to re coup the costs involved in setting up the policy.”