Hundreds of existing and former RAC and Budget insurance policyholders may be paying almost £50 a year for unwanted personal accident cover after failing to untick a box offering a free trial of the product.
Customers who bought RAC and Budget products between April 2009 and June 2013 were initially offered a six-month personal accident insurance trial, but were charged £3.99 a month for the product as a recurring payment as soon as the six months were up.
Both companies stopped offering the product using pre-ticked boxes "on or around" 31 May 2013. But a number of customers may still be unwittingly paying for the product – even if they are no longer RAC or Budget policyholders.
Pre-ticked boxes on most products sold online have been banned by the EU since June, while the Financial Conduct Authority is expected to ban their use to sell insurance product add-ons by the end of this year.
How do I know if I'm affected?
If you bought an insurance policy via Budget or RAC between April 2009 and 31 May 2013 – unless you unticked the free trial box or have cancelled your cover – you may be paying for personal accident cover.
Check your bank statements closely. Monthly payments will be in the name of Avon Insurance, which originally underwrote the products.
What should I do if I have the cover?
If you don't want the cover, cancel it immediately by calling Avon and asking it to stop taking payments.
The correct contact number should be on your policy documents but you can call Avon Insurance's general enquiries line on 01789 415 050 for further info.
Can I claim back what I have paid?
If you didn't realise you'd been opted in for the personal accident insurance and never wanted, you should try to get a refund by calling either RAC customer services on 0800 015 6000 or Budget on 0844 412 2118, and explaining that you're unhappy with the way the product was sold.
If this doesn't work, write and ask for a refund for the payments. Enclose a copy of your bank statement for the first premium you paid to help you prove how long you have been a customer (you can ask for this from your bank).
If your complaint is rejected, you have a right to take it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service – the official body for settling disputes between individuals and financial companies.
It's important to note the Ombudsman won't look at your complaint until you've contacted either RAC or Budget in the first instance and given them eight weeks to respond.
Many of our users have successfully claimed back the money they have spent on the product Forumite martyn06 says: "After making it clear I was unhappy with the process in which they set up a personal accident policy, they agreed to send a cheque for the 21 payments I had made."
What do RAC and Budget say?
A spokesperson representing both RAC and Budget says: "We ceased selling this specific policy on or around 31 May 2013, but any customers with a live policy continue to be covered.
"Historically, the purchase journey process included an automatic pre-ticked box on a separate purchase billing schedule page that entitled the customer to six months' free cover, with the option for the customer to remove the cover at their discretion before any subsequent charges were applied."
The spokesperson adds: "If a customer wishes to contact us, the telephone number to call, which differ depending on the specific nature of the policy issued, is stated in the policy documentation the customer will have been provided with. This will then ensure the customer is put through to the correct area to deal with their enquiry."