Changing a name, address or job title on a car or home insurance policy, or cancelling it completely, can result in costly administration fees of up to £55, but you should challenge excessive fees if you think they're unfair.

Sheila's Wheels and Esure both charge £55 for cancelling a car insurance policy, while Allianz charges £50. Axa Swiftcover meanwhile charges £30 for name, address or job changes if you call it to make them.

But these fees are charged for what's likely to be someone in a call centre simply pressing a few buttons to carry out your request. Here are three successes we've seen from MoneySavers who have argued that admin charges were unfair:

  • Ellie Cormack, a 50-year-old retiree from Fife in Scotland, tweeted us saying: "Successfully had an admin fee for changing my name on car insurance waived by Halifax, was meant to be £25!"

  • Rahven wrote on our forum: "We had contents insurance with Swinton but it wanted to charge a substantial admin fee to change the address, despite us moving to a safer area. We decided to cancel but for a £55/mth policy, the cancellation fee was £50, which I thought was disproportionate. I challenged it and eventually got the fee refunded."

  • wazza99 also wrote on our forum: "Changed my car using the Lloyds car insurance self-service centre. £24 premium increase, £25 admin fee! Called it to complain and it instantly refunded the £25, result."

Challenge unfair fees

Johanna Gornitzki, money and insurance editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "While insurers are within their rights to charge a fee for cancelling or amending a policy, this doesn't make it fair for them to charge consumers over the odds for a simple change.

"If you think you've been charged unfairly, call your insurer and ask it to waive the fee. If it refuses, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which can rule in your favour if it deems your charge was unfair.

"Whatever you do, don't let potential charges put you off making changes to your policy – if your circumstances change and you don't tell your insurer, your insurance policy could be invalid and any future claim may be rejected."

If you're looking for a new policy, see our Cheap Insurance section for help getting the best deal on everything from motor and home insurance to travel and medical cover.

Fees must be 'reasonable', regulator says

Insurers are allowed to charge admin fees and they can set the price; there's no standard cost across the industry.

But the Financial Conduct Authority says they have to be "reasonable" and must reflect the true cost of administration. If this isn't the case you can ask the insurer for the fee to be waived. If it refuses, complain to the company directly and then after eight weeks you can escalate the problem to the free Financial Ombudsman.

The independent complaints arbitrator, the Financial Ombudsman Service, says it's seen cases where the fees charged aren't fair because they haven't been properly explained to the customer or clearly detailed in policy documentation.

It adds that it's also seen complaints about charges for cancelling a policy during the 14-day cooling-off period. Insurers are allowed to do this, but not many do. Therefore, if you're charged, it's always worth questioning it.

Martin Lewis
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Admin fees, by insurer

The table below details how much the major insurance providers charge in admin fees.

These admin fees tend to be highest for cancelling a car insurance policy. However, how you make the change can affect the price too. Axa, Aviva and More Than charge you only if you call them to make the change, whereas if you do it online, it's free. Aviva meanwhile charges an admin fee only if a change affects the price of a premium.

Sometimes an admin change may also affect the policy price – for example, you change address and the insurer thinks the new area makes you more or less of a risk.

Insurance admin fees
Name change Address change Job change Cancel policy
Provider Motor Home Motor Home Motor Home Motor Home
Admiral £19.50 £19.50 £19.50 £19.50 £19.50 £19.50 £49.50 £49.50
Allianz No fee No fee No fee (£15 from 1 June) No fee (£15 from 1 September) No fee No fee £50 £50
Axa/Swiftcover (i) £30 £30 £30 £30 £30 £30 £52.50 £25
Aviva (ii) £18 £8 £18 £8 £18 £8 £38 £29
Churchill (iii) £26.50 No fee £26.50 No fee £26.50 No fee £53 £37.10
Direct Line No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee £47.70 £37.10
Esure £26 £20 £26 £20 £26 £20 £55 £55
More Than (i) £22.50 No fee £22.50 N/A £22.50 No fee £50 No fee
Sheila's Wheels £26 £20 £26 £20 £26 £20 £55 £55
Zurich £25 £15 £25 £15 £25 £15 £50 £30
Prices correct as of 20 May 2015. (i) Fees only apply if request made via call centre, online changes are free. (ii) Fees charged if you make changes by phone and if change affects premium price. (iii) Fees for job change only applied if premium changes as a result.
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