By Matt Kenyon
In September 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) cracked down on ‘price walking’. This is the practice of gradually increasing policy premiums at renewal, in the hope that a customer won’t take the time to look elsewhere.
Andy Tomlinson, COO of motor insurtech Cuvva, sees this practice as a symptom of a broader attitude problem in the industry – the practice penalises customer loyalty and relies on consumer disengagement.
Founded in 2014, Cuvva has cemented their place in the consumer car insurance market. Seven years and three million policies later, Cuvva know what they want to do – and what’s going wrong in the industry at present.
“Sneaky hidden fees, loyalty penalties, being put on hold for what feels like an eternity – it’s not surprising insurance on the whole has a dismal reputation”, says Tomlinson. This practice is not only hostile to consumers, it also harms public perceptions of the industry.
Cuvva is rare in its candid approach to this issue. With the motto of “radically better insurance”, the insurer sets itself against an industry moving in the wrong direction. Their mission is not only to launch fairer, more flexible products, but also to contribute to a change in customer perceptions.
Tomlinson welcomed the regulatory intervention to end ‘price walking’, but points to this as evidence of a market that is unable to police itself. “Unfortunately, dual pricing will continue until regulation is in place that prevents the industry from treating customers unfairly,” he says. Regulation is a necessary consumer safeguard for now, but it points to a broader trust problem.
“Insurance is complicated which is why the responsibility lies with insurers to simplify things for customers and to treat people fairly,” says Tomlinson.
The onus should be on insurers to explain exactly what hidden fees will be integrated into their policies, and to explain exactly how and why premiums increase at the point of renewal.
“There simply is not as much data on how a young driver behaves on the road, so motor insurers tend to default to old-fashioned perceptions of younger drivers as inherently more reckless.”
Tomlinson says that the centre of gravity in the insurance equation needs to be recentred around the consumer. There should be an industry-wide recognition that consumer behaviours have changed – even before the pandemic, driving patterns have been changing.
There simply is not as much data on how a young driver behaves on the road, so motor insurers tend to default to old-fashioned perceptions of younger drivers as inherently more reckless.
He points to young drivers as a poorly-served market. “Gen X and millennial drivers would seriously benefit if they’re priced more fairly based on their actual driving behaviour as opposed to being measured on more antiquated factors out of their control, which often leads to paying more for others’ bad behaviour.”
“Insurers need to start putting customers first. People should be able to trust their insurer and have the reassurance that they’re not going to get ripped off.”Andy Tomlinson
There simply is not as much data on how a young driver behaves on the road, so motor insurers tend to default to old-fashioned perceptions of younger drivers as inherently more reckless. To penalise young drivers is not only unfair, but it also provides a bad first impression of motor insurance.
It is not difficult to see a pipeline in which young people form a bad relationship with motor insurance early in life. The result is a limited scope for consumer loyalty – it’s hard to retain customers for life when they are penalised for being young.
He says, “Insurers need to start putting customers first. People should be able to trust their insurer and have the reassurance that they’re not going to get ripped off.”
This is the challenge for the insurance industry – how can they convince consumers that they’re not getting ripped off when there is an established track record of consumers getting ripped off?
Tomlinson points to flexibility, simplicity and dialogue as the answer. If customers are put on equal footing with an insurer, in a transparent product ecosystem, they will ultimately trust that insurers have their best interests at heart.
Matt Kenyon is a content producer at Insurtech Insights.
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