Vulnerable people could be given help to better understand their insurance renewal notices, after plans for a new industry-wide code to "build trust" in the sector were unveiled today.
As part of a new voluntary code, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) have announced that motor, household and travel insurance customers will receive more help to understand their renewal notices to ensure they know all their options before committing.
However, as this is a voluntary code, there's nothing to force ABI members and brokers to adopt it – and even then each firm's definition of "vulnerable" may vary.
But the ABI and BIBA says the definition could include those who have low literacy or numeracy skills, mental health issues or are elderly or recently bereaved.
The code will be developed by the end of this year and the ABI expects it to be implemented in 2016.
It will include measures on staff training and "tailored communication" to enable insurers and brokers to deal appropriately with vulnerable customers.
MoneySavingExpert.com has always warned people to diarise their renewal dates and to compare prices before signing up with their current providers again, and earlier this year our founder, Martin Lewis, blogged on his 10 rule changes needed to end the car insurance auto-renewal rip-off.
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Claims acceptance data to be published
In addition to announcing the new code, from next month the ABI will also publish its members' claims acceptance data in a bid to improve transparency around the percentage of motor, property and travel claims that are made and accepted by insurers. It will also publish average claim costs.
The ABI says once it starts collating data, if figures reveal high acceptance rates, it means consumers will have greater certainty their policies will deliver when they need them most.
However, if the data reveals low acceptance rates, it could show that consumers may have difficulty in understanding exactly what they're covered for, and this could propel the industry to provide clearer and simpler guidance when buying insurance products.
Currently, complaints data for the insurance industry are collated by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
In its latest complaints data for April to June 2015, it took on 2,037 new cases relating to car and motorcycle insurance (32% upheld in consumers' favour), 1,142 new cases relating to buildings insurance (34% upheld in consumers' favour) and 614 new cases relating to travel insurance (49% upheld in consumers' favour).
'This represents a real watershed moment'
Paul Evans, ABI chairman, says: "Firstly, we are working in partnership with the BIBA to publish a joint code on vulnerable customers at renewal. This will seek to address the concern that vulnerable customers might simply renew their policy from one year to the next without checking they are getting the cover they really need at a fair price.
"Second we will seek to address the perception that insurers don't pay claims through improved transparency. Having collected the data from our members, early next month the ABI will publish for the first time the overall claims acceptance rates for each of motor, property and travel products.
"This represents a real watershed moment. It will hopefully go some way towards reassuring customers that our intention is not to avoid paying out when they need us most – but that the very opposite is true."