The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published the interim report of its market study into the pricing of home and motor insurance.
The regulator found that competition is not working well for all consumers in these markets. It sets out concerns about how pricing in these markets leads to consumers who do not switch or negotiate with their provider paying high prices for their insurance.
The FCA estimates that around six million policyholders pay high prices and are not getting a good deal on their insurance. If those customers paying high premiums paid the average premium for their risk they could save around £1.2 billion a year. This affects all types of customers. The FCA estimates this includes one in three people who are potentially vulnerable.
Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said: “This market is not working well for all consumers. While a large number of people shop around, many loyal customers are not getting a good deal. We believe this affects around six million consumers.
“We have set out a package of potential remedies to ensure these markets are truly competitive and address the problems we have uncovered. We expect the industry to work with us as we do so.”
In particular, the FCA found that:
- Insurers often sell policies at a discount to new customers and increase premiums when customers renew, targeting increases at those less likely to switch.
- Longstanding customers pay more on average, but even some people who switch pay higher prices.
- From the FCA’s consumer research, one in three consumers who paid high premiums showed at least one characteristic of vulnerability, such as having lower financial capability. For consumers who bought combined contents and building insurance, lower income consumers (below £30,000) pay higher margins than those with higher incomes.
- People who pay high premiums are less likely to understand insurance or the impact that renewing has on their premium.
- Most firms, when setting a price, include their expectations of whether a customer will switch or pay an increased price. This is not made clear to the customer.
- Firms engage in a range of practices to raise barriers to switching.
- Many consumers who switch or negotiate their premium can get a good deal.
The FCA is undertaking a range of activities in order to address the problems it has identified. Through new rules introduced in 2017, the FCA has already improved transparency on renewal for general insurance policies which has delivered significant savings to customers.
The FCA will also continue its work to ensure firms improve the oversight of their pricing practices and deliver the changes required following other recent policy changes.
The FCA is also considering remedies to:
- Tackle high premiums for consumers – this could include banning or restricting practices like raising prices for consumers who renew year on year or requiring firms to automatically move consumers to cheaper equivalent deals.
- Stop practices that could discourage switching – including restricting the way that firms use automatic renewal.
- Make firms be clear and transparent in their dealings with consumers – including improvements to the way firms communicate with their customers. The FCA is also considering whether firms should publish information about price differentials between their customers.
- Harness the benefits of innovation in the longer-term, so that general insurance markets benefit positively from technological developments including Open Finance.
The FCA has set out its interim findings and potential remedies. It intends to publish a final report and consultation on remedies in Q1 2020.