Price comparison websites were invented to provide open, transparent, and easy access to the ‘best’ insurance prices for their users. They heralded a new dawn of consumer power in which individuals would have previously never had available opportunities to ‘shop around’.
What we didn’t know is that perhaps the most famous of all of those sites, Compare the Market.com, was deliberately preventing customers from seeing the best prices by restricting the rights of insurers to advertise keener prices elsewhere. Hence the reason they have been fined nearly £20m for ripping off customers.
Whilst all this is going on, the courts are due to finally rule on the rejected Business Interruption claims that have affected around 370,000 commercial customers. However, the case is finally decided, and you can bet the consuming public, both private and commercial, will have made a very negative and perhaps deservedly poor judgement of our industry.
For years, the financial services and insurance industry has been blighted by the scourge of PPI mis-selling. Billions of pounds worth of unnecessary premiums being returned to the public secured originally by deceit, and driven by greed for tainted profits, has served as a constant reminder that insurers are never to be trusted.
Is there a common theme here?
Amanda Blanc, the newly appointed CEO of Aviva, has proclaimed that the biggest risk to insurers in 2021 is their reputation. Or rather, a reputation that is so poor in the eyes of our policyholders that they feel fully justified in retaliating wherever they can.
Exaggerate a claim by, say, 10%. Why not? It’s only those dreadful insurers who suffer and they deserve everything they get.
Make a claim for a non-existent personal injury? Let’s give it a go. Get a few quid back from my premiums which, in any case, are way too high.
Game the system when making an application so that the premiums are lower? Who cares?
Thankfully, not everyone thinks or acts this way, but we all know that insurance sits somewhere below journalism and in the same category as estate agents when it comes to public trust and, in truth, that’s a reputation that we have forged for ourselves. No-one is born hating the insurance industry. Instead, we provide every excuse the public needs to justify the unjustifiable and take their revenge on what is perceived as a self-centred and selfish industry.
Of course, this perception of our industry isn’t accurate. We know that our products and services deliver extraordinary benefits to millions of claimants exactly when they need it. We know that we deliver real value to shareholders, staff, and thousands of suppliers. We know that we treat (most) customers fairly.
However, like no other period in history, we live in an age of instant and ‘always on’ communication. Reputations can be made and lost in an instant. Twenty years ago, you might have had to read the financial pages to be aware of the problems with Business Interruption claims. Nowadays, the power of the internet and social media makes it front page news on every screen, every mobile, and in every business boardroom.
So, if ever there was a time to drive our industry forward with new standards of integrity, trust, and honesty, then that time is now. Every penny of hard-earned profit is richly deserved and should be celebrated, but that profit cannot be earned at the expense of our policyholders. It is only because of those policyholders that we even exist.
It’s possible that some readers will think me an idealist, a dreamer, or even a little bit foolish to embark upon this crusade for a restoration of standards in our industry.
Guilty as charged.