Why we need to fix the insurance market.
Update: Watch this space – a draft copy of the Insurance Contracts Bill has been released for comment. We’ll be putting in a submission and updating this page soon.
Consumers are paying more than ever for insurance. But they’re not getting a fair deal.
Our latest survey research found:
Our investigation also found consumers who bought insurance through an adviser or broker were getting a worse deal. They were significantly less likely to be satisfied with the service they got compared with those who bought direct from an insurance company.
For an industry that markets its products as providing “peace of mind”, trust in insurers is low.
Our research found just 13% of consumers strongly agreed they can trust insurance companies to give them good advice.
An insurance policy should clearly set out what your insurer will provide if you need to make a claim.
However, our survey found only 18% of consumers felt confident they fully understood their policy.
For many, complex terms and conditions made weighing up different insurers’ policies hard work. One in four said they found comparing insurance companies and policies difficult.
The result for consumers? It’s that much harder to shop around and make an informed choice about the best policy.
Comparing complex terms and conditions isn’t the only issue consumers face. Twenty-four percent had experienced a problem with their insurer.
The most common complaint was having a claim unreasonably declined. Insurers can decline a claim if they think the customer hasn’t told them something they consider material. It doesn’t matter whether the omission was innocent or deliberate.
While other countries have beefed-up their laws to protect consumers in cases of accidental or innocent non-disclosure, that hasn’t happened here. The result? More claims are likely to be declined because of innocent slip-ups, whether it’s forgetting to disclose an old sports injury to your life insurer or a speeding ticket to your car insurer.
Poor customer service and steep premiums were the next most common causes of complaint.
Pressure to accept a settlement with their insurer was reported by one in 10 of those who experienced a problem.
Six percent had been sold a policy that wasn’t suitable for them while 5% had been stung with incorrect charges.
Consumers who buy insurance through an adviser or broker are more likely to feel they’re getting a raw deal.
Our research with Consumer NZ members found those who purchased insurance through a broker were significantly less likely to be satisfied with the service they got, compared with those who bought direct from an insurance company.
This difference was the most pronounced among respondents with life insurance policies.
Just 28% of those who bought life insurance through a broker were happy with the customer support provided, compared with 44% who bought direct from an insurance company.
Similar differences were seen in satisfaction ratings for price and policy information. Only 34% of those who bought life insurance through a broker felt their policy was easy to understand, compared with 49% of respondents who bought direct from an insurance company.
Why the difference? Insurance brokers typically work on commission. In the life insurance industry, these commissions can be as high as 200% of the premium. Bonuses for meeting sales targets and other incentives can also be paid.
Commission-based selling inevitably raises the risk an adviser will put their interests ahead of the consumer’s. Our research suggests commission-based selling is leading to less satisfied customers.
It seems to have been a great way for advisers to boost their income by getting clients to ‘upgrade’ their policies … my adviser told me [that I’d] be best to move my life cover – he would save me quite a lot on premiums … now my life cover is nearly twice the price!
I have recently discovered that I have been overpaying on my insurance for years and was sold two different kinds of life insurance policies. I’ve been over-insured for at least 15 years.
I stupidly got conned by a broker and changed [insurers] (being told we would save $100 per month!!) WRONG! We saved $20 per month and then, after the first year, our premiums cost us nearly $40 per month extra!!
It's too hard to compare prices with other insurers. I suspect I'm paying too much but don't know how to find out prices for alternatives. None of them publish them on the website. Also too difficult to compare the cover.
It really is quite impossible to compare any insurance product with constantly changing market offerings, ultimately measured only by response to honest claims.
Hate the fine print. Too hard to understand especially when trying to compare one with another.
[My insurer] rolls over our policy every year, premiums are increased and yet we have never been contacted as to whether we have enough cover.
Over the past decade, insurance costs have risen sharply. Statistics NZ data show a 40% hike in the combined household cost of car, contents, home, health and life insurance cover.
The insurance industry needs to work better for consumers. We’re proposing simple changes that will help ensure consumers get a fair deal and advice that isn’t skewed by commissions.