Swinton Insurance fined £7.4m for mis-selling

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Image caption Thousands of Swinton customers have already been paid compensation

One of the UK's largest insurance brokers, Swinton, has been fined £7.38m for mis-selling policies.

The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), accused the company of an "aggressive sales strategy" and of failing to treat its customers fairly.

It said the company had "prioritised profit".

Swinton issued an immediate apology. It said it had changed its practices, and had set aside a total of £11.2m to compensate its customers.

The fine, one of the largest of its kind, relates to policies that were sold over the telephone.

Between April 2010 and April 2012, staff attempted to sell so-called "add-ons", in the form of personal accident, home emergency and motor breakdown policies.

But customers were not told that the policies were optional.

"Swinton failed its customers," said Tracey McDermott, the FCA's director of enforcement and financial crime.

"When selling monthly add-on policies, Swinton did not place the consumer at the heart of its business. Instead it prioritised profit," she said.

The FCA said such add-ons generated £92.9m of income for the company.

Swinton said it had now contacted more than 650,000 customers, and paid out £1.9m in compensation.

On average customers have been paid £55 each.

"We apologise for these shortcomings," said Christophe Bardet, the chief executive of Swinton.

Value for Money

The FCA was particularly critical of the sales patter employed by staff.

It said that "poor sales scripts meant that every sale could have been a mis-sale".

Swinton said it had since changed its scripts, and issued new guidance to staff.

The FCA is also to launch a wider enquiry into the selling of "add-ons" by insurance companies.

The study will look at competition between rival insurance companies in this area.

It will also determine whether such products represent good value for money, and whether consumers understand what they are buying.

"I recently told the insurance industry that we were taking a strong interest in the area of add-ons, and our first competition study will take a far-sighted view of the impact of current practice on consumers in this market," said Martin Wheatley, the FCA chief executive.

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