Josephine Cumbo

It is not often that insurers get a public pat on the back for treating their customers fairly. But Aviva deserves a plaudit for today announcing that it will introduce discounts for cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS) exclusions which are applied on its critical illness policies.

This is a big step for fair treatment of customers who up until today were paying for elements of insurance that they could not claim on (and cancer and MS are among the most common claims on the policies) Aviva has taken its time to introduce these discounts, with its much smaller competitors bringing in fairer pricing for cancer and MS last year.

But today’s step by Aviva, the country’s largest insurer, does set the tone for the rest of the big players to follow suit.

Related reading:

L&G offers premium discounts for cancer (, 4 Dec 2009)

Josephine Cumbo

The equity release industry is not usually a place for sudden shocks. But some advisers were left a little breathless today by sector heavyweight Prudential’s confirmation that it is pulling out of the market after nearly four years.

The Pru is a household name and was one of three main equity providers; it claimed about 25 per cent market share last year and its strong brand rubbed confidence into a sector tarnished in the past for running rough shod over its elderly customers.

But its withdrawal – largely because returns are not fast enough on the lifetime deals – was sudden and seemed to catch many on the hop, including the industry’s key supporters who rushed out statements today saying they believed the industry still had a strong future – even without a big fish like the Pru.

Josephine Cumbo

Back in September the City regulator with some fanfare announced “tough” new measures which would have provided comfort to any consumer mis-sold a payment protection insurance policy in the past five years.

By the end of the year, the FSA wants to have in place a new rule which would force banks and other PPI providers to review some 185,000 complaints rejected since January 2005 – a costly move for the industry.

But the FSA reckons the new rule is needed because current guidance hasn’t stopped some providers from rejecting nearly all PPI complaints, most of which are being later overturned by the Ombudsman in the consumer’s favour.

Most problems with PPI are about mis-selling: either consumers can’t claim on the policy due to exclusions, or they weren’t told it was to be bundled into their loan with interest charged on the compounded amount. Others were not told about the monthly and annual cost of the insurance.

Anyone getting redress would be entitled to a refund on their premiums plus interest paid due to that component, which could amount to hundreds, if not, thousands of pounds for some.

The FSA’s proposals should ensure complaints are fairly considered in future and not rejected out of hand. But if you are a customer hoping the FSA’s plans will result in your rejected complaint being given a better hearing second time round, you may have to wait a while longer to see action.

The industry is making strong representations for this retrospective element to be pulled as you can read in our exclusive report.

Related links

Swinton fined for PPI breaches, (FT, October 28, 2009)

Watchdog acts over mis-sold insurance (FT, 30 September, 2009)

Josephine Cumbo

The internet has become the indomitable force of the century. So much so that it is now claiming dominion over death.

The Last Messages Club’, launched today, allows members to create personal, e-packages for recipients, which are stored electronically and emailed to loved ones and friends after you die. The messages might include a long-held secret, a profession of love or even a rant at a partner or boss. Videos and pictures can also be sent with your Last Messages, along with documents and other attachments.

The FT’s Money blog is a forum for the latest news and insights from the UK’s personal finance scene. Matthew Vincent, the editor of FT Money and his team of reporters will upload their views and insights on what’s happening in the industry and how this affects people’s finances.

This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

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Lucy Warwick-Ching is the FT’s new Money Online Editor and has been a UK Companies reporter covering tobacco, pubs and leisure companies as well as the deputy editor on House and Home.

Matthew Vincent is the FT’s Personal Finance Editor and was previously the editor of Investors Chronicle, where he also devised the award-winning online video The Market Programme, and produced the BBC-FT standalone magazine ‘How to be Better Off’. He presents the weekly FT Money Show audio podcast, and previously worked on the BBC TV programmes Short Change and Pound for Pound.

Alice Ross is deputy personal finance editor of FT Money. She specialises in pensions, investments and investment trusts. Alice joined FT Money in April 2008 - prior to that she was deputy editor at Money Management magazine.

Ellen Kelleher has been a personal finance reporter in the UK for close to four years. Before arriving in London, she worked in the FT's New York bureau where she covered the insurance sector.

Steve Lodge is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in savings.

Josephine Cumbo has written about all aspects of personal finance but currently specialises in insurance. She also covered company news for Prior to working at the FT she was a news reporter for the ABC.

Tanya Powley is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in mortgages and the housing market. Tanya joined FT Money in November 2009 after working in Australia covering personal finance for the Australian Financial Review and its sister magazine Asset. Prior to that, Tanya wrote about mortgages for UK trade newspaper Money Marketing.

Jonathan Eley is editor of Investors Chronicle, and has been with the title for ten years. Before that he worked for newswires and trade journals in London, New York and Hong Kong.