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Fair by Design

Car insurance poverty premium costs people in poverty hundreds of pounds – it’s time for action 

By Martin Coppack, Director, Fair By Design

It’s not every day that we see the financial services market reacting so strongly to what the regulator says on a relatively “niche” area, but one that affects many people: premium finance.

Premium finance is the loan and interest that insurance providers charge you if you can’t afford to pay for your car insurance all in one go, and pay monthly instead. It’s also used with other financial products.

Authority (FCA) is sending strong signals that it will tackle premium finance, with its Director of General Insurance Matthew Brewis effectively calling it a poverty premium this week:

“It is a tax on being poor. Those who are paying monthly are subsidising those who can afford to pay annually.”

It’s not the first time that Matthew Brewis has talked about the need for action on premium finance being used to charge people more for paying monthly. When we launched our latest report on insurance poverty premiums with the Social Market Foundation (SMF) last spring, Matthew said that the FCA had been engaging CEOs on premium finance. He said that the FCA expected the prices charged for paying monthly to be proportionate with the credit risk for the cost of providing that service. Matthew questioned why some consumers experienced such high rates, saying it was not “really apparent why’s it’s appropriate for APRs at 30% or above charged to consumers”. You can watch him here:

 

The Association of British Insurers, in turn, said they agreed on the need to collaborate with Treasury and the FCA on some of the issues identified in our report. 

The Shadow City Minister Tulip Siddiqi MP spoke at the same launch event and agreed action was urgently needed. Tulip pledged to make the case for any incoming Labour Government to prioritise tackling how expensive it is for people on low incomes who pay monthly for their insurance: “Too often it’s just more expensive to be poor, which is not how we want the country to be run”.   

What is the impact of premium finance on people on low incomes?

Our latest research with the SMF shows that over half of people in poverty are finding it difficult to pay for their insurance during the cost-of-living crisis – leading some to give up insurance as they prioritise food and energy bills.  

This research described how paying monthly for car insurance can cost £160 more a year than paying everything upfront. These extra costs have a knock-on effect on take-up amongst people on low incomes. Zahada, who has lived experience of this issue, explains how she had to pay monthly for her daughter’s car insurance because they didn’t have all the money to pay upfront. That has cost them an extra 10%, or around £200. You can hear directly from her in this video: 

We want to see action 

We have an opportunity to end this poverty premium for good. There are strong signals from the regulator and, we believe, increasing willingness from industry to collaborate. In an election year, we are calling for political parties to make addressing the poverty premium part of their commitments. We want to see a UK where everyone pays a fair price for essential services and where it doesn’t cost more to be poor.