Insurers are keen to keep you on the books by getting you to renew your policy. But how many calls are they allowed to make, chasing you up, before it becomes harassment?
A renewal quote can be a helpful reminder that your policy’s due, but what happens if your insurer tries to pester you into staying with them?
I've just been plagued by the Fresh Insurance Group when my home insurance policy came up for renewal. As you’d probably guess, being a financial journalist, I always shop around for cover. And while last year Fresh came up with the best deal, fast forward a year and its quote wasn’t so competitive.
So I did my research and soon found another insurer with a better deal.
As my policy wasn’t set for auto-renewal, (one of my pet hates as auto-renewal means easy pickings for insurers while customers get stuck with the same company and less competitive rates year after year), there was no need for me to contact Fresh.
But Fresh proved pretty keen to keep in touch with me.
Nuisance phone calls
Fresh followed up its written quote with calls to my mobile. Initially these showed up as ‘missed’ calls, and as no message was left I started to suspect a cold caller. Popping the number into Google I recognised it as my soon to be ex-insurer, but as I wasn’t intending to renew there was no reason for me to waste time getting in touch.
A couple of days later I answered the phone to a 'we sent you a quote as your policy’s due for renewal’ call. I told them I was unhappy with the volume of calls I’d had, would not be renewing and not to contact me again. But a few days later on a Saturday afternoon I had yet another call from them, ever eager to sign me up for another year.
When I challenged Fresh on what I think could be construed as making nuisance calls, it claimed it is standard policy to call customers up to five times after sending a renewal quote. If it can’t get hold of you at this point, its representatives will leave a voicemail and send a text. But it’s open about the fact it calls customers during the day, in the evening and at weekends in order to get hold of them.
None of my previous insurers ever indulged in this practice, so I checked out renewal procedures with some other insurers including Direct Line and LV=.
Both companies say they either send renewal quotes or write to you a month before your policy expires, but neither calls customers to remind them about renewal or encourage them to renew. Fresh claims that what it’s doing makes sensible business practice as it pays to go on comparison sites, so once it’s found a customer it doesn’t want to lose them.
How many times can insurers call you?
So what are the rules when it comes to calling customers and not taking ‘no’ for an answer?
The Association of British Insurers says there are no fixed rules on this, although it would expect insurers to ‘treat customers fairly’.
The problem from a customer perspective is that when you’re taking out any financial product or service like an insurance policy, energy contract or credit card you almost always need to give some form of contact number. When I’ve questioned companies on this they always strenuously reassure me any number given is for file purposes and won’t be used for marketing, yet with some companies you do still get calls pushing new services, deals or trying to persuade you to stay.
I contacted the Information Commissioner’s office, which looks after data protection, to find out who’s in the right here. It said it’s all about ‘permissions’; when you’ve given out your number, whether you’ve made it clear to the company when and why you can be contacted.
If you make it clear your number isn’t to be used for marketing or sales purposes the company concerned runs the risk of being slapped with a £500,000 fine if they don't abide by your wishes.
But in the real world proving you’ve made this clear (especially over the phone) is a tough one, particularly if calls aren’t logged or recorded. If you do get unwanted follow up calls from a company you’ve given your number to, the Information Commissioner’s office suggests you email the company saying you’re ‘withdrawing’ your consent for your number to be used.
Once there’s evidence of a paper trail you’re in a much stronger position if they continue to hassle you and you can report the case to the Information Commissioner’s office to investigate.
Blocking unwanted numbers
You can register with the Telephone Preference Service to filter out sales and marketing calls from companies who randomly get in touch, but when it comes to companies you’ve ‘given’ your number to, like your bank or insurance company it’s usually down to you to make it clear you don’t want marketing calls.
Phone companies like BT will ‘block’ numbers for you for a small fee, but this is likely to prove more inconvenient than practical if you block your bank, insurer and energy supplier on the off chance they decide to disturb your evening by calling you.
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