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11th September 2011

Focus on UK motor insurance costs

Commenting on the announcement by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) of a call for evidence into the cost of motor insurance, a day before the Justice Minister announced referral fees are to be banned, Otto Thoresen, the ABI’s d irector general, said “This will give the industry another opportunity to highlight the cost pressures motor insurers are facing, what action is needed to reduce them, and steps the industry is taking to ensure customers get the best deal when buying motor insurance.
Rising claims costs from personal injury claims and excessive legal costs, insurance fraud and uninsured driving, coupled with lower investment returns in recent years, have unfortunately led to rising motor insurance bills for many customers. In fact the motor insurance industry has not been profitable for the last sixteen years.
Insurers are acutely aware of the impact that higher motor insurance premiums have for their customers. This is why the industry is doing everything possible to reduce costs, for example by campaigning for compensation reform to tackle excessive legal costs and frivolous claims, and setting up the Insurance Fraud Register to further reduce fraud”.
Cost pressures impacting on motor insurance include:
-Personal injury claims. The number of bodily injury claims received by insurers rose by 72% between 2002 and 2010.
-Excessive legal costs. For low value personal injury motor accident claims, for every £1 insurers pay in compensation, a further 87 pence is paid to claimant lawyers. UK consumers pay £2.7m every day to claimant lawyers through their motor insurance premiums–that is 10% of every motor premium.
-‘Crash for cash’ staged accidents and other insurance frauds, including fake whiplash claims. Last year insurers detected 40,000 fraudulent motor insurance claims worth £466m.
-Uninsured driving. The cost of compensating the victims of accidents involving uninsured drivers is £500m a year, paid for by honest motorists through their insurance premiums.
Commenting on the response from the Government to the Transport Select Committee’s report on the cost of motor insurance, Thoresen said “Insurers are committed to keeping motor insurance competitively priced but we urgently need reform of our compensation system if motor premiums are to come down. “The Transport Select Committee’s report was a missed opportunity as it failed to recognise that the main cause of higher premiums was our dysfunctional compensation system that encourages spurious and exaggerated personal injury claims and excessive legal costs. The Government’s reform proposals must tackle these unnecessary costs. When similar reforms were introduced in Ireland, motor premiums fell by 16%
“To ensure young drivers are properly prepared for the roads we have long campaigned for a tougher learning to drive regime, including graduated licensing, as the best way to reduce their high accident rates. However, Government action here has fallen short of what is needed. While insurers will continue to develop products aimed at helping young drivers become safer on the roads, an overhaul of the learning to drive regime is still needed by the Government.”