Choosing Essential Insurance Over The Unnecessary

By: Jemma Tipping

Which? has warned consumers that they could be wasting thousands of pounds of their hard earned cash on unnecessary insurance. The consumer body said that life insurance, car, buildings and contents insurance was vital, however it argued that other policies such as extended warranties, ID theft insurance and payment protection can prove to be a waste of cash.

The company recommended that people reviewed their current insurance policies to ensure they had adequate cover. Many people are paying for new insurance for things they are already covered for by existing policies, and some are taking out cover which is very unlikely to pay out.

An example of this is identity theft insurance purchasers, who are already covered by their bank or building society under the banking code, which specifies that the victim should be reimbursed.

Which? went on to assert that life insurance policies often include accidental death and injury cover, and mobile phones are covered by contents insurance. It pays to be insured in case anything should happen, but paying out twice for the same thing is a waste of money.

Payment protection insurance (PPI) has come under scrutiny from Which? for a long time, the company has pointed out high premium prices and high obstacles which often mean insurers will not pay out on policies. PPI is supposed to cover repayments on loans, mortgages and credit cards if the borrower finds themselves in a situation where they cannot meet the payments themselves, it has been widely criticised for being over-prices and only offering limited benefits to customers.

The author of the Which Money Saving Handbook, Tony Levene said: "The insurance industry's favourite phrase is "peace of mind", but it uses this to justify policies that cost a lot and are almost impossible to claim against, "Instead of just blindly following what the salesman says, people should carry out a risk assessment of their own, and make an informed choice about whether they actually need the insurance, and whether it's worth the premium."

PPI has faced much criticism over the past few years, earlier this month the HFC was fined £1m by the Financial Services Authority, for not ensuring 163,000 of its customers were properly informed when they bought PPI from the company.

This was the ninth fine of this type the financial regulator has enforced upon insurers for failing in this field. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has also reported a steep increase in complaints by consumers about PPI policies.

The last financial year saw 2,000 complaints about PPI registered by the company, the first nine months of the new financial year saw 5,000 complaints made. Alongside this figure a 30% increase of complaints about car insurance was also recorded.

In a response to the Which? survey finding, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that consumers should carefully research their options before taking out any cover to ensure it is a necessary purchase. As Which? commented there are some types of insurance which are necessary and the number of cheap life insurance policies available mean that it is not impossible to be covered for the right things while avoiding the wrong.

ABI director, Nick Starling, said: "It is important that people look into their individual circumstances to ensure they have adequate insurance for their needs, particularly for life changing events such as unemployment and ill-health."

"The sale of insurance is regulated but consumers should also be asking questions so that they can decide if a product is right for them," he continued.

Starling said that the FSA has asserted that if sold correctly PPI insurance can provide and valuable protection for any customers who need to claim.

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