Business

Car insurance small print 'longer than a novel'

  • 22 April 2014
  • From the section Business
Thinkstock Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Terms and conditions are often ignored, but contain vital information

Small print on some car insurance policies has a higher word count than George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, a consumer website has found.

The motor insurance policy documents produced by Endsleigh, Sheila's Wheels, Esure and M&S Bank run to more than 30,000 words, Fairer Finance found.

In contrast, insurer LV had terms and conditions of fewer than 7,000 words.

An insurance trade body said it was working with regulators to improve paperwork for customers.

Well-read?

The highest word count was Endsleigh, with car insurance policy documents containing 37,674 words, Fairer Finance said.

The website's founder, James Daley, said that a survey of 2,000 consumers had found that fewer than a third of those asked said they read terms and conditions.

"Even those who do are struggling to understand them, [so] what exactly is the point of these documents?" he said.

"Of course, it is important that customers know what is covered and what isn't in their insurance policy, but if one company can do the job in less than 7,000 words, there is no excuse for insurers who are producing documents that are five times as long."

James King, head of conduct regulation for 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."

'Legal jargon'

Mr Daley added that it was not only insurers which produced lengthy terms and conditions.

Small print for an HSBC bank account totalled more than 34,000 words. They start: "Your agreement with us consists of these General Terms and Conditions ("General Terms") and any Additional Conditions (the General Terms and the Additional Conditions are together the ("Terms")) that apply to any product/service that you have and which are described in the Terms."

Terms and conditions on accounts from Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, Metro Bank, NatWest and Halifax all had word counts of more than 25,000, the research found.

"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 is accessible and doesn't turn off customers before they have started," he said.

"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 is 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."

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites