Fsa Calls for \’fairer\’ Treatment on Life Insurance

For many, buying life insurance is a difficult task. After all, to some degree, the purchase of life insurance involves the recognition of one’s own mortality – a step that can be too large for some to take. But making sure your family, or any other dependents you might have, are well provided for is crucial – both for their peace of mind and yours. Therefore, buying life insurance is a step that must be taken.

However, if you’re a consumer looking to purchase life insurance, recent findings by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) may be cause for concern. The regulator of all financial service providers in the UK (the FSA) has just published an insurance sector briefing which suggests that some life insurance providers are not doing enough to educate consumers on the benefits and consequences of their life insurance policies.

The FSA’s study relates specifically to with-profits life insurance policies. With-profits policies combine investment with protection, and is designed so that the policy-holder shares some of the profits made by the life insurance company. In most cases, with-profits life insurance is added to a life insurance policy as an annual bonus, and is therefore a popular insurance choice for consumers who buy their life insurance early in their lifetime, as it accrues benefits over the years.

The key findings of the FSA research shows that although there are 32 million with-profits life insurance policies in force in the UK today, many policyholders no longer have the ability to contact the particular adviser who sold them their policy. What’s more, the absence of post-sales advice means that with-profits life insurance policy holders are forced to rely on post-sales documents for guidance. The FSA’s review of these documents shows both ”good examples” and ”significant failings” – as well as a crucial failure in explaining how the actions of an insurer may affect the policy holder.

Sarah Wilson, the FSA’s Director and insurance sector leader, said:

”Without ongoing advice, consumers might not be able to make properly informed decisions about their with-profits policy… And poor after-sales information for these and other policy types make it harder for consumers to understand the performance of their policies and the product features they have paid for.”

She added:

”Senior management in both insurers and advisory firms need to re-examine their existing approach, and where necessary, implement changes. Advisers need to provide advice where they have created an expectation where they will do so. Insurers need to ensure that post-sale communication is clear, fair and not misleading.”

As firms take in the FSA’s advice and make the necessary changes in their practice, it looks likely that the UK insurance market will be able to see better prospects for life insurance customers. Moreover, the growth in consumer comparison sites on the internet means that the life insurance market is becoming more transparent for consumers of financial products in the UK – a development that is sure to benefit anyone thinking about taking out life cover in the foreseeable future.

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