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AXA to stop selling pet insurance

Dog with a cone collarAXA has become the latest company to announce it is planning to stop providing pet insurance.

Its decision means that thousands of cat and dog owners are in limbo and unsure whether they will be able to afford cover in the future.

AXA follows Lloyds and Halifax, both of which said in 2011 that they would not offer renewals of policies to existing pet insurance customers.

Policies to be transferred to new insurer

In a statement, the firm said: "Axa will continue to provide cover for existing customers until a new insurer is secured.

"At the time of the switch over, existing customers will have their policies transferred to the new insurer who will continue to provide them with the same or similar levels of pet insurance cover.

"Customers will be contacted with more details before their policies are transferred."

Will this lead to higher pet insurance cost?

However, customers whose pet policies have reached their annual renewal date recently say that they are facing much higher prices if they wish to extend their cover.

This appears to be especially true for owners who have recently made claims.

One AXA customer told the BBC the premium for her cocker spaniel had been raised from £26.81 a month to £190.26 a month following treatment for an eye condition.

Kate Rose, head of pet insurance at Confused.com, said: "This will be no doubt be a concern to AXA customers.

"But until further information is released as to who the new insurer is, and the exact level of cover being offered, it is very much a situation of wait and see.

Compare policies carefully

"Once a new insurer has been agreed and details are sent through, it's important that customers compare the new policy details carefully.

"This is to ensure the level of cover being offer by the new insurer is sufficient, and matches the current level of cover being provided through AXA.

"If you are unhappy with the new terms, make sure you raise this through the approved channels at AXA.

"And, as with all financial products, if you raise a complaint and feel that it has not been satisfactorily resolved you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service."

Rose added that people whose pets were currently receiving veterinary treatment, or were involved in an accident or fell ill in the coming weeks, should talk to AXA as soon as possible.

“They need to ensure they are clear as to how claims will be paid, in particular if there is a chance that treatment will span the transfer of cover to the new insurer.”

Vets' bills on the up

Insurers are becoming more reluctant to offer pet cover in part due to the rise in the cost of vets' bills in recent years.

Research published this week by Sainsbury's Bank showed that fees for treatment have doubled in the past decade.

What's more, the vast majority of vets expecting prices to rise further in the next few years.

Scott Gorman is head of Sainsbury's Pet Insurance.

He said: "The veterinary profession has made huge advances in diagnosis and treatment including the treatment of chronic conditions and this is expected to continue.

Pet owners spend £5.3bn a year

"However, these advances come at a cost some pet owners may find increasingly difficult to pay for.

Gorman added: "We estimate that pet owners spend approximately £5.3 billion a year on their animals and this has risen by around 4.2 per cent a year since 2008.

"A growing proportion of this cost is likely to be attributed to vet fees.

"The pet insurance industry needs to do more to raise awareness of this and ensure pet owners have access to adequate cover."

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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