Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Body warns to shop around as car insurance cost rises

Motorists should shop around for cheaper car insurance policies as the cost of driving rockets.

The warning comes after an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report found that the cost of car insurance is 11% higher in Northern Ireland than other parts of the UK.

The OFT study also showed that last year people in rural areas paid between 30% and 70% more than those elsewhere.

Consumer Council chief executive Antoinette McKeown said action must be taken to lower premiums here.

But she also said that there are several ways for consumers to obtain lower prices themselves, most importantly by shopping around.

She suggested three ways to do this: use an insurance broker, a telephone insurance provider or a price comparision website.

The Consumer Council said motorists should not automatically accept a renewal quote from their current insurance provider.

The OFT received evidence that suggests there are higher personal injury compensation levels and higher legal costs associated with claims in Northern Ireland, as well as more frequent accidents.

But it also found that the higher premiums were partly due to consumers in Northern Ireland being less likely to shop around.

Only 55% of consumers in the province compare quotes, while 73% do so in the rest of the UK.

Graham Tredgill of the British Insurance Brokers Association said high premiums were primarily caused by the legal system: “So many more cases end up in court in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The rewards for certain things are higher than in Great Britain. If you lose an eye that cost could be £30,000 to £40,000 in Great Britain, but in Northern Ireland it could be £65,000 to £90,000.

“That's why we feel there has to be a review of the system.”

The Law Society of Northern Ireland said it had provided evidence highlighting the impact of the actions of claims management firms on the cost of car insurance.

Imelda McMillan, Law Society president, said it has been engaging in talks bout this.

“Commentators on this issue have frequently and inaccurately pointed the finger of blame solely at the legal system for driving up the cost of car insurance,” she said. “This new report identifies a number of potential factors including the higher number of road traffic accidents, the actions of claims management companies and the general level of consumer awareness.”

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