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Motorists demand end to insurance policy jargon

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New research shows thousands of drivers think their insurance policies lack transparency and are difficult to understand. We identify the most common problems.

 Confused man with laptop

Jargon and confusing policy terms are motorists’ biggest bugbears when it comes to insuring their vehicles, new research has found.

A study carried out by analyst Consumer Intelligence has found widespread dissatisfaction among drivers about the customer service they get from insurers.

Failure to explain

And the most serious complaint relates to providers’ failure to explain how policies work and what exactly policyholders are covered for.

Consumer Intelligence’s report found that more than half of motorists said that car insurance should be made more transparent and easier to understand.

The survey also showed that there was strong demand for insurers to offer UK-based call centres – one in 10 drivers backed such a move – while almost a quarter said they wanted the option to be able to manage their policies and make claims online.

Motorists also want to see an end to the practice of offering relatively expensive renewal quotes which can then often be reduced with a bit of haggling.

‘Offer best price upfront’

Customers said insurers should simply offer their best price upfront when the current policy was about to run out.

Katy Ratcliffe, head of marketing at Consumer Intelligence, said: "Customers want more than an annual renewal reminder and are vocal in their wish for a closer relationship based on trust and transparency.

"Providers need to focus on how good they are at making customers happy and understanding what customers want from them.

"They should work out why customers are leaving and decide the type of customers they want to attract.

"What stands out is the need for consumers to feel they are being treated fairly which is in line with what regulators want."

New drivers worst affected

Gemma Stanbury, head of motor insurance at Confused.com, said there were a number of policy terms and conditions which frequently caused confusion among consumers.

"Generally, customers who have quoted for car insurance for years have a grasp of the main four elements of a policy: breakdown cover, legal expenses protection, courtesy car and windscreen cover.

"Although in some cases it's worth checking what level of cover they get with each for the associated cost," Stanbury said.

But for new drivers in particular, many of these areas can be hard to understand, and apparently minor differences in cover levels can turn out to be important when it comes to making claims.

 Missing paperwork

Stanbury says there are three common areas of confusion for less experienced policyholders:

Courtesy car and hire car provision

Many insurers say they will provide a courtesy car if the policyholder’s vehicle is involved in an accident and needs to be repaired. However, this may depend on the garage having a courtesy car available, and you may not be entitled to one if you are at fault for the accident.

If your car is written off or stolen, however, you are unlikely to be entitled to a courtesy vehicle – even though this is when you really need one.

Instead, you may be able to pay extra for hire-car cover for ensure you can still get around if this happens.

Excesses

If you make a claim where another driver is not at fault, you normally have to pay the first part – this is known as the excess. However, your excess is formed of two elements, the voluntary and the compulsory excess.

As you might expect, everyone pays the compulsory excess, while you can choose how much voluntary excess to pay when you buy your policy.

The higher the voluntary excess, the lower your premiums are likely to be.

But if your insurer has a compulsory excess of £150 and you choose a voluntary excess of £250, you will have to fund the first £400 of any claim.

Legal expenses cover

Many insurers offer to cover legal expenses as part of their standard policy, while with other providers you have to pay around £20-30 a year extra for this protection.

Legal expenses cover will pay your legal bills if another driver takes action against you – for example for negligence – or if you want to do the same to another motorist. Cover is usually limited to around £50,000 or £100,000.

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