Home insurance customers paying hundreds of pounds in loyalty penalty, study finds

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Policyholders with same insurer for six years charged twice as much as new customers, Citizens Advice finds

Loyal home insurance customers who stick with the same provider for six years or more are driving the profits in the sector, analysis from Citizens Advice suggests.

The charity said loyal customers are paying an average annual premium of £325 for their sixth year of insurance – nearly double that of new customers (£172).

The latest research suggests that home insurance providers tend to make their profits from those customers who remain loyal for six years or more.

But the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that whether or not a firm makes a profit depends on “many factors” and companies have committed to review premiums charged to customers who have been with them for more than five years.

Those sticking with their providers year in, year out could find themselves paying hundreds of pounds more for their policies than those who switch every year, Citizens Advice found.

It said after six years, a loyal customer could typically expect to have paid a total of £1,596 – £500 more than someone who spends every year as a new customer with their insurer, paying £1,032 on average.

Citizens Advice looked at the typical costs of home insurance, contents insurance, and combined home and contents policies.

It said it had used figures from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the ABI.

The charity said that in 2016 there were 9.3 million policies across the UK where customers had been loyal to their provider for six years or more and 6.9 million policies where customers switched after a year.

Citizens Advice said it is particularly concerned that vulnerable people, including those in poor health, may be particularly likely to end up paying the loyalty penalty.

It estimates that 3.75 million policies have been held for 11 years or more and in seven in 10 of these, customers are potentially vulnerable.

In one case, a 76-year-old pensioner with severe arthritis, who had been with the same provider for over 10 years, received a renewal letter wanting to increase her premium from £1,500 to £3,500 a year.

She said: “I was shocked, really confused and also sad that they expected me to pay so much.

“I had no choice but to find a cheaper provider. As I don’t have access to the internet I went through the Yellow Pages and called quite a few insurance providers and found a far cheaper deal of £958 per year.”

Citizens Advice submitted a “super-complaint” on the loyalty penalty, in the mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings markets, to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which made recommendations after finding “damaging practices” by firms including stealth price rises.