COVID-19 causes confusion for insurers and policyholders
Some SMEs (small-medium enterprises), which have generally been in the tough economic conditions of the pandemic, have found their insurance company unwilling to accept liability where the policyholder believed it existed. This includes disease clauses, non-damage denial of access, public authority restrictions and more.
This new development stems from a orchestrated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in September 2020. Selecting a representative sample of eight insurer wordings, the FCA convinced the Court in a highly complex judgement that approximately 370,000 affected policyholders could be liable for compensation.
The decision was celebrated by the FCA as a “significant step in resolving the uncertainty being faced by policyholders”, with Christopher Woolard, Interim CEO, stating:
“Coronavirus is causing substantial loss and distress to businesses and many are under immense financial strain to stay afloat.
“‘Insurers should reflect on the clarity provided here and, irrespective of any possible appeals, consider the steps they can take now to progress claims of the type that the judgment says should be paid. They should also communicate directly and quickly with policyholders who have made claims affected by the judgment to explain next steps.”
However, with several insurers now lodging appeals against the ruling, it is clear that the matter is far from resolved.
A difficult recovery
Despite this, the company also emphasised that refocusing key areas of investment and attempting more dynamic planning could lead to the industry’s eventual resurgence. As Jerome Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re Group Chief Economist, said:
“For sustainable economic recovery, we need a policy reset. Public policy should focus on areas such as infrastructure, technology and climate. Building new sustainable infrastructure will have a significant impact on GDP growth.
“In addition to smarter spending, policymakers should make more use of public-private partnerships and establish the operational and regulatory frameworks to enable greater participation of private-sector finance, including insurers’ assets, in the real economy.”
FCA bans ‘price walking’ for insurers from Jan 2022
Insurers will no longer be allowed to raise premiums upon annual customer renewals following a new ruling by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The new move, which comes into effect in January 2022, will directly affect people renewing their home or motor insurance because they will pay no more for their premiums than a new customer.
The FCA said the change will save loyal customers an estimated £4.2bn over a 10-year-period. However, it also admitted the move could mean cheaper deals for new customers can no longer be sustainable for insurers attempting to attract business.
Price walking practices ended
According to reports, the FCA has been working on changing the rules on ‘price walking’ as it is termed, because customers are charged more their annual premiums, even though their level of risk remains the same. The system has resulted in complaints from consumer groups that loyal customers pay more unnecessarily.
"These measures will put an end to the very high prices paid by many loyal customers. Consumers can still benefit from shopping around or negotiating with their current provider, but won't be charged more at renewal just for being an existing customer."
Victory for the customer
Consumer groups have hailed the change as a victory for customers who have ended up paying higher premiums unnecessarily, but admitted it presented huge implications for insurers in the short term.
Consumer Intelligence CEO, Ian Hughes said, “These changes represent a tsunami for both insurers and their customers, but we should be in no doubt that the fault line that sits underneath this is fair value, mentioned 153 times in the final statement. GIPP changes will feel like just a ripple for those who don’t offer fair value to customers."
He continued, “This is going to be a bumpy ride for insurance brands and consumers alike in the short term. Today, the FCA has revealed that cash and cash-equivalent incentives, other than toys and carbon off setting, cannot be used to entice new customers without being offered to renewing customers. This means the savviest consumers who shop around each year will see prices rise and discounts and offers disappear.
“However, there is an opportunity for the industry to take advantage of all this change that is coming and do something that will be good for brands, good for the industry and good for consumers."
Consumer Intelligence PR and communications manager, Catherine Carey agreed, and described the victory as “a shot in the arm for innovation.”
Carey said the move “presses a giant reset button on the relationship between price and value, it will change the relationship between brands and consumers.”
She explained, “We expect to see insurers changing their models and new firms entering the market for the first time as loss-making year one pricing phases out. If you look at these new rules, and specifically the introduction of fair value, it’s the most exciting time for the development of the general insurance market for decades.”
Hughes also warned against insurers resisting the regulatory change, “Those that don’t take advantage of the opportunity are going to find it really tough.”
He added, “The tipping point we find ourselves at today is a critical point in the journey of this industry and there is an opportunity to be positive.”