Editor's comment: Do you have our loyalty card?

stephanie-denton-new

I got a ‘call’ from my mum the other day. I mean I speak to her every day and she only lives half a mile away but this was one of those ‘could you please do something for me?’ calls.

She'd had her car insurance renewal come in and was none too impressed to find it had increased annually by £90. She is by no means a vulnerable customer - she is an intelligent woman who has raised three children, been managing director of two of her own businesses and still runs a successful property letting company.

She knows how car insurance works and understands the terms and what she wants - hire car, legal protection, personal injury and named drivers on her car. She is perfectly capable of renewing her own insurance policy, although downloading Kindle books and watching catch-up TV is for some reason beyond her. But the truth is she doesn't trust insurers as far as she can throw them and she thinks I've got the inside track.

I suggested the increase in insurance premium tax by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne might have had an impact, that claims costs are rising and the market is trying to stabilise highs and lows by putting through 10% increases, but agreed this seemed rather a lot.

So I popped around to check it. And yes, I could see her premium had increased by a whopping 27% when I calculated it. Her mutual insurer had kindly printed last year's premium for her to see but beyond telling her that they'd be happy to renew her cover for her using her existing details, there was no explanation as to why she was seeing such a rapid increase. There was no mention of the increase in IPT or of increasing claims costs, just a call for her money. Nor was there any detail as to why she should renew with them - no mention of excellent customer service or what a fabulous product she was buying.

Maybe the insurer in question just didn't want her business? Maybe she is a dangerous driver with a high-powered car? Nope: a clean license, a full no-claims discount, 50 years of driving experience and a 2008 sturdy seven-seater that's a year older, along with her.

In fact, a quick quote like-for-like on a comparison site (sorry!) showed that not only was she in demand as a safe new customer for a dozen other well-respected insurance brands, but her current insurer would also take her on as a new customer for almost the same as she paid last year.

A phone call to them and yes, they offered to drop the premium quoted. But the damage was done and we sorted out a new policy with a new provider. Mum felt she could no longer trust the old firm to provide her with a good service if they couldn't treat her as a loyal customer - and she questioned how a firm that is supposed to price for a risk could offer premiums that are so far apart for the same customer.

To be honest, I don't blame her. Customers aren't stupid. The person on the street realises that prices increase each year and loyal customers will pay for a reasonable increase, especially if it is explained to them. For a 10% increase, Mum said she wouldn't have called me but would just have renewed.

To treat loyal customers - who in today's market are used to being rewarded for loyalty from their supermarkets, petrol stations and even banks - as pay cheques and then offer sweeteners for new unknown customers seems like madness to me in an already difficult market.

This is a clear example of what UK insurtech firm Guevara this week called a 'broken' motor market, where renewal hikes exist to pay for churn but with little transparency.

Two-tier pricing must stop if motor insurers are ever going to make a profit and – more importantly – gain my mum's trust and loyalty in the future.

Stephanie Denton
Editor

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