Even if you don’t make a claim, calling the insurer direct to see if you are covered is logged – and the result can be very expensive.
Dropped your mobile down the loo and wondering if you can claim on your home insurance? Not sure if that leak in the kitchen ceiling is covered by your policy? You might naturally call your insurer to find out. But if you do, the information you give could be held against you – even if you do not make a claim – and raise future premiums by hundreds of pounds.
These can be logged by the insurer in a central database used by most UK insurers, the Claims and Underwriting Exchange, even though you may not have claimed. Insurers can log incidents “which may or may not give rise to a claim”. This is in the interests of preventing fraud, but they also use it to assess the likelihood someone will claim in future.
“It’s absurd that calls that do not result in a claim should affect your record,” says Steve Foulsham, head of technical services at the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba).
“It really doesn’t stack up. If no claim is made, that incident should be filed as ‘no payment’ in the database. It is unfairly treating people who do the right thing by calling up to notify their insurer. Even worse is that most people do not know that this information is being logged in a way that can potentially be used against them, even for incidents that do not necessarily make them more risky.”
It is worth knowing that any leak reported to a home insurer is likely to result in a black mark on your record. The galling thing is that there is no opportunity to explain what happened. In one case, the bath had slipped and dislodged a pipe – one plumber and plasterer later and it was fixed, all for less than the excess. Is there any way I can record this information in our file?
“Unfortunately, incident records are not like a credit record that can be corrected,” says Webb, “and insurers take a broad brush approach. They have to, because they cannot justify the cost of going into detail over the personal histories of every applicant.”
A leading insurer said: “We take into account all incidents regardless of whether a claim has been made as we have to price a premium based on the risk presented to us.”
But with such premium hikes at stake for mere phone calls, you would be forgiven for thinking twice before phoning to make any inquiries. “There’s a very fine line between not unduly arousing attention for a minor issue and material non-disclosure of an incident, which would be in breach of policy terms,”
Another industry expert says: “It might be helpful to know that insurers work on the basis that if someone feels they should tell you about something, it gets recorded.” Surely we should know this? “Perhaps, but then insurers run the risk that if everyone knows those calls are logged, people would not report incidents that would be of justifiable concern.”
And it seems there are no rules on how insurers can use this data, or whether they should tell customers they might use it. The Association of British Insurers has previously said only that: “We would expect the insurer to make it clear the impact that a report of an incident could have.” As I found out this does not always happen.
If you are worried previous incidents may be held and used against you, the best thing to do when you next obtain insurance is to use a broker. Then, says Foulsham, “you have the opportunity to explain the circumstances to a human being, who can put into context any incidents to insurers, which can, hopefully, deliver a cheaper premium”.
And if you think a price comparison site offers an opportunity to let previous incidents go undetected, think again. There are ways insurers can see if you are trying to avoid disclosure. Nicola Parry, of moneysupermarket.com, says: “Insurers can now tell if a person has entered a claim in their application, obtained the premium, then gone back to the form and removed the claim to reduce it.”
Categorised in: Claims