It appears that highway robbery is still alive and well in good old England. Once the province of nefarious masked highwaymen with their flintlock pistol crying “Stand and Deliver – Your money or your life!” these days it’s the modern day equivalent… Insurance companies! Once upon a time when your policy had expired it was your responsibility to ensure it was renewed. However, nowadays these modern day robbers take you for a fool and and your cash automatically – no pistol or threat needed.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”
Most insurance policies bought online automatically include an auto renewal clause that basically states that unless you choose not to renew and tell our insurer they can happily keep on making withdrawals using your Direct Debit details, it’s the equivalent of a “continuous payment authority” which some companies can use if you purchase using a debit card.
The Office if Fair Trading class the automatic renewal of insurance policies as “inertia selling” , and the worst part is that despite the Distance Selling Regulations it’s totally legal. Now while there can be some advantages in having a policy renewed e.g. Home Insurance and you are the victim of a fire etc. at least you’re covered but if you decide to swap insurers for a better deal you’d better beware as you can easily end up paying for two policies without even knowing it… And that is what they are counting on… customer apathy. It’s far easier to stay with your current insurer than to go through searching out the best price, but that’s where they get you!
For example I drive a 10 year old VW Golf and last year my insurer Kwik Fit covered the car for £550. Moving forward a year and this time they came back with a “competitive” quote for the same car that is only worth £2500 and they wanted £1000 to cover it! Naturally I searched all the comparison websites and found a cheaper provider and signed up.
This weekend I discovered to my horror that my previous insurer renewed my policy and took £95.67 from my account! I called them today and cancelled the policy and was told that the cancellation fee was £34.00. Their fine print* said that the cancellation fee was £25 in the first 14 days but nowhere does it say that there is an additional “pro-rata” cost for each day the car was insured. My policy was “renewed” on the 29th June and I found out about the withdrawal on Sunday 1st July, that’s 3 freaking days worth of cover! So Kwik Fit Insurance profited £35 from me failing to contact them before the renewal. That’s a company I’ll never do business with again!