The latest advice from the FCA;
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is concerned that as pressure mounts on household budgets some customers may cut-back on the insurance they need, leaving them without protection. The government has announced further support for consumers and businesses for energy costs and in the September fiscal event, including a two-year energy-price guarantee for households. While this will help tackle the pressure on household budgets, some people may still consider cutting back on insurance cover.
The FCA is taking action to support households, by writing to insurance industry CEOs to make sure their customers are protected from unnecessary products or add-ons and unfair penalties. Where poor practise is found, the FCA will quickly intervene to protect customers from harm.
Customers, including businesses, in financial difficulty are also more likely to need to pay for their insurance monthly through premium finance. They may also be the most affected by general interest rate rises and have a higher likelihood of not being able to make a payment. If customers face increasing difficulty paying bills or repaying debts, the impact on them is unlikely to be purely financial. Consumers will be more likely to face pressures on their physical and mental health, which in turn could worsen the impact of their financial difficulties.
Firms can help customers in financial difficulty by:
- Reassessing customers’ needs
- Considering whether there are other products that better meet the customer’s needs
- Providing clear information to consumers about the additional cost of premium finance
- Working with customers to avoid the need to cancel necessary cover
- Waiving fees associated with adjusting a customer’s policy in line with the reassessments
- Considering whether cancellation fees should be removed for customers in financial difficulty
Sheldon Mills, Executive Director, Consumers and Competition at the FCA, said:
“Customers who are struggling with their finances should contact their providers as soon as possible. We encourage customers to continue to shop around to find the best deal. Firms should not unfairly penalise them for any payment difficulties but instead work with them to find solutions.
“We have a thriving and efficient insurance sector, and we want people getting the cover they need at a cost they can afford so both business and customers benefit.”
Firms must continue to provide clear information when customers renew their policy to help them decide whether they want to go ahead or shop around for a better deal.
Catherine Carey, Head of Consumer Strategy at Consumer Intelligence, says: “Our own research shows that more than one-in-four (27%) of consumers consider themselves to be vulnerable according to the FCA’s definition. Significantly, this has now risen above the peak we saw at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Vulnerable customers interact differently with insurance services providers. They shop around less and stay with their insurer for longer. This should not be confused with loyalty. Nor are vulnerable customers a static group; using predictive indicators of low financial resilience and low digital capabilities our insights show potential for over a third of motor insurance customers and almost half of home insurance customers to be vulnerable.
“With such huge financial pressures on consumers right now and such a large proportion of them potentially vulnerable, it is vital insurers ensure they are working in their best interests and protect consumers from further harm – and that they are able to identify them in the first place.”