1 Motor insurance auto-renewals The 1.3bn annual cost to UK drivers February 25 th 2015
3 Motor insurance auto-renewals About MoneySuperMarket MoneySuperMarket was set up to help consumers find the best deal on household bills and that is still our mission today. In 2013 we were used by over 27 million UK adults. We provide a free, easy to use online service so they can compare a wide range of products in one place and find the product most suited to their needs. Our size means we are able to offer our customers exclusive, market-leading deals, including some they can t even get direct from providers.
5 Motor insurance auto-renewals Foreword Insurance is the classic distress purchase. No one wants to buy it, but most of us recognise that we need it just in case. So we trust it to help us out when required. And we trust insurance companies to play fair both when selling us a policy, and when that policy comes up for renewal. But as this report lays bare, the practice of automatically renewing car insurance policies known as auto-renewal is far from fair and reduces effective competition. Often people have no idea that they re agreeing to auto-renewal when they first buy their insurance policy, and would have no way of opting out even if they did. When renewal time comes around, the letter or they get from their insurer can be confusing and misleading, and even bury significant changes to their policy in the small print. If you don t want to renew your policy, cancelling can prove difficult. This might not matter if auto-renewing didn t cost us, individually and as a nation, so much. With an average saving of at least 113 if someone hasn t switched for a couple of years, most people are better off not letting their insurance policy roll-over automatically. And the over-55s, those with less money, and people not on the internet suffer more than most. As a country, we spend over 1.3billion more than we need to just because so many car insurance policies renew automatically that s money many can t afford to waste. The insurance industry can be a force for good employing thousands of people across the country and coming to the rescue when the worst has happened. But when it comes to auto-renewal, it needs to rediscover its purpose, to provide much-needed piece of mind to customers. Our Eight Point Plan sets out how. It s straightforward, simple, and fair. I want to challenge the industry to adopt this plan and put itself back on the side of its customers. Peter Plumb Chief Executive, MoneySuperMarket
7 Motor insurance auto-renewals Contents Executive summary An overview of auto-renewals How auto-renewal is harming UK consumers Recommendations: Our challenge to the motor industry Conclusion
8 MoneySuperMarket Executive Summary Almost a quarter (23%) of all UK motor insurance policies are automatically renewed every year without consumers checking a single other quote Drivers who allow their policies to be auto-renewed are collectively over-paying on their motor insurance by 1.3 billion every year Older people, those on low incomes and those who don t have internet access are most likely to be adversely affected by auto-renewal MoneySuperMarket is challenging the insurance industry to adopt eight simple best practice recommendations to address the current failings in the auto-renewal process
9 Motor insurance auto-renewals This report provides an analysis of the widespread practice of the UK motor insurance industry of automatically renewing motor insurance policies at the end of their annual term, commonly known as auto-renewal. 01 Drivers who allow their policies to be auto-renewed are collectively over-paying on their car insurance by 1.3billion every year It is based on a review of insurance renewal notices issued to UK consumers in 2014, quantitative and qualitative research carried out by Ipsos Mori and You Gov, and anonymised data from MoneySuperMarket s motor insurance site. All sources are referenced. The report finds that the use of auto-renewal does benefit drivers by ensuring that they don t end up accidentally uninsured when their existing policy expires and that they meet the legal requirement, introduced in 2011, to be insured at all times. However, it also finds that, in many cases, drivers are not aware that they are giving consent to be auto-renewed when they first take out their policy, that renewal notices are at best unclear, sometimes burying significant policy changes in the small print, and that cancelling an auto-renewed policy can be difficult and costly. The findings raise questions over whether the widespread practice of auto-renewal is the most effective way to ensure motorists are not accidently left uninsured and whether the insurance industry can adopt other practices to warn customers of their obligation to be insured. The scale of those adversely affected is sizeable. Almost 6 million policies - 23% of all UK motor insurance policies - are now automatically renewed every year without consumers checking a single other quote.
10 MoneySuperMarket There is a financial cost to auto-renewal. Our research shows that consumers who shop around instead of allowing their policies to be auto-renewed can make considerable savings. Drivers who allow their policies to be auto-renewed are collectively over-paying on their car insurance by 1.3billion every year. Consumer research for this report found that a large numbers of drivers have concerns about auto-renewal. In a poll conducted by YouGov, over two-thirds (68%) of consumers said that they see auto-renewals as a bad thing because customers can be locked into a policy for another year without giving explicit consent, while 62% felt auto-renewals deterred consumers from shopping around for a cheaper quote. The research found that for some consumers, autorenewal means that they have paid for two insurance policies, having bought a new policy without realising their existing policy had been auto-renewed. of over 55s who did not change providers last time their insurance came up for renewal had not changed providers for five or more years. To address the current failings in the auto-renewal process, and to tilt the balance of fairness back towards the consumer, the report challenges the insurance industry to adopt eight simple best practice recommendations. These eight recommendations, would remove some of the most negative impacts of auto-renewal in the motor insurance industry, turning auto-renewal back into a benefit for consumers. We want to put consumers back in control of their insurance cover and the insurance payments that are automatically taken from their bank or credit account. In other cases, a lack of clarity in auto-renewal notices has meant that important changes in circumstances points on a licence or modifications to a vehicle, for example have not been reported to an insurer for far longer than otherwise would have been the case, leaving the policy holder under-insured or even uninsured. Further research by Ipsos Mori confirmed what has been suspected for some time: groups such as older people, those on low incomes and those who don t have internet access are most likely to be adversely affected by auto-renewal. For example, over 55s are significantly more likely than the younger age groups to auto-renew for numerous consecutive years: 40%
11 Motor Auto-Renewal insurance auto-renewals Report 2015 Eight best practice recommendations 1 Consumers should be clearly asked whether they want to opt-in to auto-renewal when first buying their policy 01 2 Cancelling auto-renewal should be really simple to do when people receive their renewal notice. Such as a click-through button on s or a simple cancellation form sent with the letter 3 Last year s policy price should be displayed clearly on your renewal notice, next to the new price 4 Any significant changes to policies such as the imposition of a larger excess or removal of breakdown cover should be clearly displayed on renewal notices 5 Renewal quotes should clearly include proof of any No Claims Bonus, to enable easy switching to alternative policies 6 Renewal notices should prominently warn customers they must inform their insurer of any changes in their circumstances, such as a new address, change in job, annual mileage or points on their licence 7 Renewal notices should be in plain English 8 People must be prominently told about the cooling off period, during which it should be free to cancel
12 MoneySuperMarket Overview of auto-renewals Background to auto-renewals
13 Motor insurance auto-renewals Continuous Payment Authorities (CPAs) are now used in almost all motor insurance contracts. This allows insurance companies to take money from a customer s bank account to automatically renew a policy when it expires, without any further explicit agreement of the customer. When consumers sign up for motor insurance they are now no longer signing up to a year s cover, but rather for a rolling policy that will renew every year until the holder cancels. The practice of auto-renewals does help ensure that drivers don t end up accidentally driving without insurance and committing an offence. To address the problem of uninsured drivers on the road, the Road Safety Act 2006 introduced a new offence of being the keeper of an uninsured vehicle: Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) came into force in 2011, requiring every vehicle to be covered by a valid insurance policy, unless it was subject to a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). Two years later, the complaints from consumers haven t subsided. What is more, auto-renewal is increasingly being used for other insurance products such as home and travel insurance. It seems that auto-renewal has gone beyond being a way for the insurance industry to fulfil its obligations to help ensure vehicles are insured at all times, and has become a widespread customer retention tool. This report is the first to look in depth at the use of auto-renewals in the motor insurance industry, providing landmark analysis of the costs and problems caused to consumers by the practice. 02 But while automatically renewing customers is entirely legal and can be helpful, the widespread use of the practice has not come without controversy. In 2012,BBC Radio 4 s Money Box programme began to expose consumers concerns around the practice. The BBC reported at the time that the Financial Ombudsman Service had seen almost 400 complaints over a six-month period in It brought to light for the first time issues such as consumers finding it difficult to cancel their policy, and unexpected fees and charges.
14 MoneySuperMarket The research The report is built on consumer research around the auto-renewals process. It highlights that the problems auto-renewals cause are both serious and widespread, and result in a range of consumer detriment issues. To compile this report: We looked at motor insurance renewal notices issued to policyholders in 2014 and spoke to consumers about the issues they experience when faced by auto-renewal. Ipsos Mori conducted face to face interviews with 824 consumers responsible for purchasing motor insurance across Great Britain, between 5-22 December Survey results are weighted to be representative of the target population within Great Britain. YouGov surveyed a further 1,262 adults from across Great Britain who are responsible for arranging and managing their motor insurance. The survey was conducted in December Public concern about auto-renewals 1 68 % of consumers agreed that auto-renewals are a bad thing as consumers could be locked into a new policy without giving explicit consent 67 % agreed that auto-renewals are a bad thing as they could lead to consumers ending up having to pay two policies at the same time 62 % of consumers felt auto-renewals deterred people from shopping around for a more affordable policy We analysed real renewal quotes, tested purchase journeys, and conducted mystery shopping of cancellation processes. Finally, the research modelled the cost to consumers. 1 YouGov Omnibus Survey of 1262 UK adults in December 2014
15 Motor insurance auto-renewals
16 MoneySuperMarket How auto-renewal is harming UK consumers The process of auto-renewal starts when a consumer first purchases a motor insurance policy. This is when consumers knowingly or unknowingly enter into a Continuous Payment Authority, allowing the insurer to auto-renew the policy and take payment directly from the consumer s bank account or credit card. A year later, when the policy is about to expire, the company must contact the consumer again, giving them details of the terms of any renewed policy and the right to cancel. Our research looked at both of these stages of this customer journey, when the policy is first purchased and when a renewal notice is sent out.
17 Motor insurance auto-renewals Entering into auto-renewal agreements We reviewed the online customer journeys of a selection 2 of motor insurers to see when and how consumers are informed by insurers that they are signing-up to an indefinite agreement when they first purchase their motor insurance.. Our analysis identified a range of practices adopted by insurers to inform their customers that they are signing up to an automatic renewal process, some more transparent than others. Our review revealed: An inconsistent approach to when and if customers are informed the policy will be auto-renewed. Some insurers were upfront about the process, others only informed customers once they had completed the purchase. No insurer enabled a customer to opt out of auto-renewal at the point they first purchased their policy online. Consumers must call the insurer directly often on premium lines to opt-out of auto-renewal. The payment method used also determines whether or not the consumer has signed-up to auto-renewal: 03 - People paying by credit card and in particular with an American Express card, may find they have not entered into an auto-renewal agreement. But those purchasing the same policy using their bank details may be signed-up to a CPA which allows the insurer to auto-renew the policy. - This lack of clarity and consistency in the way in which insures apply CPAs for the same policy could cause confusion. 2 The review included the five biggest insurers as identified by the OFT s Private Motor Insurance Market Study in 2011 as well as a random selection of smaller providers.
18 MoneySuperMarket When are customers informed that their policy will be automatically renewed after a year? Information was not provided as part of the customer journey. Policy docs state Admiral will automatically renew policy from customer s card details held on file Are all customers treated the same regardless of payment method? Yes Can customers opt-in or opt-out of their policy being auto-renewed at the end of the contract? Customers must contact Admiral to opt out. No option is given during purchase When are customers informed that their policy will be automatically renewed after a year? This is not part of the customer journey. Policy documents state policy will renew automatically Are all customers treated the same regardless of payment method? Auto-renewal is unavailable to customers paying annually by Switch or Maestro Can customers opt-in or opt-out of their policy being auto-renewed at the end of the contract? Customers must update their My AXA Account or /call AXA to opt-out of auto renewal 3, 4 Example in annex 1
19 Motor insurance auto-renewals Information 3 about auto-renewal is easy to locate as part of the customer journey as it is shown in the check and buy page We were unable to see any information during the purchasing journey. For Quote Me Happy we found details on page six of the policy document 4 We were unable to immediately determine which payment method would or wouldn t enter the customer into a CPA Where customer selects a continuous payment method of payment their policy will automatically be renewed 03 A Freephone number is provided to opt-out. We could not find an online opt-in or opt out option We could not find an online opt-in or opt out option as part of the customer journey. Customer must contact Aviva to cancel their CPA to avoid auto-renewal Consumers are informed during the purchasing journey in the penultimate step of the online customer journey We were unable to see any information during the customer journey Only applies to payments by Direct Debit, Visa, Visa Delta, or MasterCard Policy documents state the policy will only automatically renew if customer has chosen a continuous payment option. Customer must contact LV= before renewal date to continue with insurance policy for other payment methods. We could not find an online opt-in or opt out option as part of the customer journey. Customers can call to opt out of automatic renewal We could not find an online opt-in or opt out option as part of the customer journey. Customer must contact LV= to opt-in or out of auto renewal, depending on their payment method
20 MoneySuperMarket Clarity of auto-renewal notices We found the process by which insurers implement the automatic renewal of a policy at the end of the annual term to be even more inconsistent than at purchasing stage and, arguably, misleading. We obtained and reviewed a selection of renewal 5 notices from across the market. Our analysis found that renewal notices differed wildly in terms of presentation style and in what information they presented. 5 Insurers can tailor renewal notices for individual customers as we were only able to gather a random selection of notices; our findings only provide a snapshot rather than a full market analysis. 6 Example from Quote Me Happy see annex 2 for image. 7 Example from Insure Pink - see annex 2 for image. 8 See annex 4.
21 Motor insurance auto-renewals In some cases it was difficult to quickly compare the renewal quote to the previous year one insurer even omitted the renewal quote in one renewal notice but included it in another. Some insurers did not clearly identify any changes to the policy such as an increase in excess. This information may only be highlighted in the policy document or the customer needs to login to their online account with the insurer. 03 Some insurers did not clearly identify any changes to the policy such as an increase in excess. This information may only be highlighted in the policy document or the customer needs to log-in to their online account with the insurer. We noticed that some insurers use language that makes it unclear that the notice is a renewal notice such as Happy anniversary 6 or YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ANYTHING 7. Such language along with unclear signposting to the cancellation process may be confusing for customers and takes advantage of consumer inertia to the consumer s detriment. Insurers do not include details of the customer s No Claims Bonus. This could act as a barrier to switching as consumers fail to understand their right to transfer this bonus when they switch provider. Our findings raise concerns about whether the content and design of renewal notices create a barrier to switching. Consumers may find it easier to compare prices and policies if points three, four, five and eight of the Eight Point Plan were adopted. We have developed an example renewal notice highlighting best practice 8.
22 MoneySuperMarket Is this year s renewal price displayed? Yes Is last year s renewal price displayed? No Are key features and changes to the policy highlighted? Key changes to the policy aren t highlighted in the renewal notice. Customers need to login to Admiral s web portal to view changes Provide proof of No Claims Discount? No 10 Is this year s renewal price displayed? Yes Is last year s renewal price displayed? No Are key features and changes to the policy highlighted? Key changes to the policy aren t highlighted in the renewal notice Provide proof of No Claims Discount? No 9 AXA announced it will include the last year s premiums in all renewal noticed on 12 February Quote me Happy is part of Aviva Group. We were unable to review a renewal notice from Aviva. 11 Swiftcover is part of AXA insurance. We reviewed the renewal notices separately as the notices appeared to differ from the AXA notice. 12 See example in annex 2.
23 Motor insurance auto-renewals 9 Yes Yes Yes No No No New features are clearly highlighted, although customers need to login to a web portal on AXA s site to view details of all changes Key changes to the policy aren t highlighted in the renewal notice No but there is clear warning that customer should inform the insurer of any changes in their circumstances 03 Yes No No 11 Yes Yes Yes No No We saw two separate Swiftcover 12 auto-renewal notices sent within two months. One of these displayed last year s price, whereas the other did not Key features of the policy are highlighted on a details page overleaf. A significant increase in excess was also highlighted in this section, there was no mention of this on the first page No but there is a clear warning on the second page that there are some changes to the policy and information about how to find more detail Very few key features and any policy changes are clearly highlighted on the notice Yes, overleaf on the details page No Yes
24 MoneySuperMarket How straightforward is the cancellation process? Customers who do shop around and wish to switch provider may find the cancellation process difficult to navigate. There is an inconsistent approach to the cancellations process with a large number of insurers failing to display prominently a cancellation number or web link. Our review found that the process for people wishing to cancel their policy is often unclear. Although consumers can purchase a new insurance policy online at any time of day, we found most insurers do not provide an online cancellation process. Most insurers do not provide a freephone number for customers wishing to cancel and most customer service contact centres only operate during office hours. We even found examples of the customer being charged for cancelling. Our findings indicate that the cancellation process presents another barrier to switching. We would ask insurers to adopt points two, five and eight of our Eight Point Plan to help improve the cancellation and switching process for consumers. 13 Example available in annex Example available in annex Swiftcover is part of AXA insurance. We reviewed the renewal notices separately as the notices appeared to differ from the AXA notice.
25 Motor insurance auto-renewals Is the cancellation process clearly signposted? Details of how to cancel are included towards the end of the renewal notice Although there is a section entitled Right to Cancel, this only includes details of the costs cancellation will incur, rather than clear information on how to actually cancel the policy Is the number Freephone? No, the number is 0844 There is no cancellation number obviously displayed 03 Can you cancel online? There is no cancellation web link obviously displayed There is no cancellation web link obviously displayed Are there any costs to cancel? None evident AXA 13 charge a 25 administration fee as well as any credit card. For cancellations made outside the 14 day cooling off period, credit card fees and a cancellation fee will be charged 14 Is the cancellation process clearly signposted? There aren t clear details on the cancellation process on either page of the renewal notice, although a number is listed, this is only in the context of changing payment method or adding new features to the policy A cancellation number is given in the penultimate line of the Is the number Freephone? The number that is listed is Freephone, although it isn t clear whether customers can also cancel on this number No Can you cancel online? There is no cancellation web link obviously displayed There is no cancellation web link obviously displayed Are there any costs to cancel? Yes, on the details page of the notice, there is a notice that if you cancel within 14 days there is a cancellation fee, although the amount isn t specified 13 None evident
26 MoneySuperMarket Consumers are left over 1.3 billion out of pocket Auto-renewal is a problem for many consumers, in part because of the financial cost to them. We estimate that over 1.3 billion 16 of savings could be made by UK consumers if they were to shop around rather than allow their insurance to auto-renew. Our data suggests that the average saving consumers could make is 113 if they had been with their insurer for two to three years. For each year that a consumer renews their policy with their existing provider, the size of the possible saving grows. For those who last switched provider three or more years ago can make an average saving is , over 30% 18 of the average cost of motor insurance in the final quarter of While all the evidence suggests that those consumers who are prudent and actively shop around can make substantial savings, it is clear from our research that auto-renewal presents a significant barrier to many consumers taking advantage of available savings on their motor insurance. 16, 17 MoneySuperMarket analysis of renewal quotes. 18 ABI average motor insurance premium tracker Q Ipsos Mori interviewed 824 people responsible for renewing private motor insurance in December 2014.
27 Motor insurance auto-renewals It s a big problem affecting 23% of drivers Our consumer 19 research shows that 23% of consumers allow their insurance policy to auto-renew without looking at even a single alternative quote, equivalent to almost 6 million policies across the UK. Of the consumers we spoke to who did not change motor insurance provider last time their policy came up for renewal, 29% had not changed providers in five or more years, greatly increasing the likely cost of auto-renewal for them. This group was also significantly less likely to have checked their renewal price against the cost of last year s policy, or to have checked whether key features of their policy have changed, meaning that their insurance is likely to be more expensive than necessary and less suited to their needs than they think. 03
28 MoneySuperMarket Consumers are trapped in the wrong policy While nearly three-quarters of consumers check their renewal quote against last year s policy, we found that over two-thirds (67%) 20 do not check if the policy features have changed. One-fifth of consumers claimed to do neither of these things. Furthermore, without informing their insurer, 1% 21 of consumers have made changes to their vehicle, 2% experienced changes to their health, 3% received a driving conviction, 3% experienced other changes in circumstances and 1% had one of these changes apply to a named driver other than themselves. This means their insurance could have been compromised and, at worst, rendered invalid. While this is not caused by auto-renewal these changes have happened during the term of existing insurance policies auto-renewal does mean that they are far less likely to be picked up when the policy expires, thus prolonging the period of under - or non-insurance. 20 Ipsos Mori interviewed 824 people responsible for renewing private motor insurance in December YouGov Omnibus survey conducted in December , 23 Ipsos Mori interviewed 824 people responsible for renewing private motor insurance in December 2014.
29 Motor insurance auto-renewals People are paying twice We found that over two thirds (67%) 22 of people had significant concerns over auto-renewals, on the basis that, if customers switch to a new supplier and forget to cancel their old policy, they may end up paying the cost of two insurance policies. These concerns were borne out by our wider consumer research: 6% 23 of consumers who switched in the last four years said that at some point in their most recent switch they ended up paying for two motor insurance policies at the same time. Not only would this leave the consumer out of pocket for the period of the overlap, it is likely that they may have been charged a cancellation fee if the policy were cancelled after the statutory cooling off period. 03 There is also the potential problem of resolving which insurer is liable for any claim made if the policyholder had two policies running concurrently.
30 MoneySuperMarket Older people are often worst effected by auto-renewal Our research found that the over 55s 24 age group were significantly more likely to auto-renew without checking quotes than the other age groups. We found that: Last time their motor insurance came up for renewal, nearly a third (31%) of over-55s did not check any quotes and allowed their existing provider to renew their policy, compared to only 11% of year olds. Over 55 years old 31 % year olds 11 % Of those over-55s who did not switch car insurers last time their policy came up for renewal, 40% had not changed insurer for five or more years, compared to only 12% of year olds year olds Over 55 years old 40 % year olds 12 % year olds 24 Ipsos Mori interviewed 824 people responsible for renewing private motor insurance in December 2014.
31 Motor insurance auto-renewals Three in ten (29%) people aged 55 or more did not check the renewal quote against last year s policy cost. In addition to this over two-thirds (68%) did not check whether key features of their product policy had changed before renewing their motor insurance.
32 MoneySuperMarket People without access to the Internet are also hit hard Those who do not have access to the internet are also significantly more likely to auto-renew than those who do have access. They are also more likely to be serial auto-renewers. We found that 25 : Last time their motor insurance came up for renewal, 39% of people without internet access did not check any quotes and allowed their existing provider to renew their policy, compared to 21% of those with internet access. 39 % Without Internet 21 % With Internet 39% of people without Internet access last changed their insurance provider five or more years ago (60% three or more years ago), compared to 28% with internet access (40% three or more years ago). 39 % Without Internet 28 % With Internet 17% of people without Internet access said they did not change insurer because it was too much hassle, compared to only 10% with internet access. 17 % Without Internet 10 % With Internet 25, 26 Ipsos Mori interviewed 824 people responsible for renewing private motor insurance in December 2014.