Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Small print longer than Animal Farm

Endsleigh, Sheila's Wheels, Esure and M&S Bank have all produced motor insurance policy documents running to over 30,000 words, Fairer Finance found

It would take longer for someone to wade through all the small print on documents produced by some car insurers than it would for them to read a novel such as George Orwell's Animal Farm, research by a consumer website suggests.

Fairer Finance found that Endsleigh, Sheila's Wheels, Esure and M&S Bank have all produced motor insurance policy documents running to over 30,000 words, making them longer than Animal Farm, which is just under this amount.

At the other end of the scale, the research found that LV= did "the same job" in 6,901 words.

The research also looked at the length of the small print surrounding some bank accounts. It found the terms and conditions for an HSBC bank account came in at just over 34,000 words, which made them almost 5,000 words longer than John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men.

Norwich & Peterborough Building Society, Metro Bank, NatWest and Halifax were also found to have small print running to more than 25,000 words - over twice the length of Nationwide Building Society's account terms and conditions, which was the shortest out of the research at just over 11,000 words.

A survey by FairerFinance.com also found that just 27% of more than 2,000 people it surveyed claim they read the terms and conditions and policy documents in full. Of these, just 17% said they understand them.

Almost three quarters (73%) of those who do not read all the small print blamed this on the length of the documents.

James Daley, founder and managing director of Fairer Finance, which has launched a "spare us the small print" campaign, said: "As a first step, we want all banks and insurers to take the legalese and jargon out of their small print, and to lay out the documents in a way that's accessible and doesn't turn off customers before they've started.

"But in the long run, the industry needs to have a rethink about what information it needs to get across to its customers, and what's the best way to do that.

"Too often, compliance managers and lawyers talk banks and insurers into throwing the kitchen sink into these documents, which reduces the chance of the small print ever being read."

James King, head of conduct regulation at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: " Insurers are continuing to look at ways to improve their communications with customers and are working with the regulator to further improve the quality of disclosure documents."

A spokesman for the British Bankers' Association (BBA) said: "The banks have already identified this as an issue and we understand how anyone can find this level of detail intimidating. That's why we've been working with consumer groups for a number of months now.

"We want to make sure that the small print only carries the most essential information for customers and are designed to help people manage their money in the best way possible."

A statement from Endsleigh said: "Endsleigh is a broker operating a panel of insurers. As such, Endsleigh operates a common motor policy wording which is designed to meet the requirements of the whole panel."

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