Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The importance of Before-the-Event Legal Expenses Insurance

The publication of the In Case of Emergency Report by Consumer Focus caused a few ripples in the ARAG office when it was released last month, due primarily to its negative and often inaccurate account of Before-the-Event Legal Expenses Insurance (BTE LEI). Now, a couple of weeks later, we have had time to read through it and digest the findings only to discover that our initial concerns were confirmed.

As you may know ARAG is fighting the proposed civil litigation reforms as we believe that removing the recoverability of After-the-Event (ATE) insurance premiums will significantly reduce access to justice. The Consumer Focus Report also mentions the reforms but points to BTE LEI as a contender to fill the gap left behind. Yet, the Report itself is likely to cause more damage to access to justice by focusing on the negative aspects of their findings into the BTE LEI market and describing it as an “unnecessarily complex and shadowy market”.

These are the kind of statements that create the headlines, not the fact that 64% of respondents were able to give an explanation of BTE LEI (showing relatively high product knowledge) and 48% and 16% respectively were either satisfied or very satisfied.

Below are just a few examples where we have spotted some inaccuracies in the Report:

  • Accepting that knowledge of any product or service is likely to be low amongst those that do not purchase it, the fact that overall 64% of respondents were able to give an explanation of LEI is testimony that it is well understood.

  • Some favourable findings concerning BTE LEI policy information were excluded from the Report. The Report states that just 4% of respondents claim they received nothing when purchasing LEI. This along with an impressive response of 70% finding their policy information reasonably clear or very clear illustrates that considerable effort is made to treating customers fairly.

  • It confirms that just 15% of respondents would not know what to do to make a claim. We would contest that this compares favourably to any other form of insurance product. Furthermore, excluded from the Research are details of those groups who have a greater than average 64% response on knowing what to do to claim.

  • The Research comments that most people find the process of claiming straightforward, yet the Report fails to mention this preferring to highlight the fact that it is concerning that less than half of those surveyed (who had a successful claim) were satisfied with the process for making a claim.

ARAG is not afraid to accept criticism where it is due but the findings in this report seem to have been unnecessarily skewed in order to paint an unbalanced picture.

In principle we are not against such a Report and in fact commend the objectives set out. Some of the findings as they stand are very useful and will inform some of our decision making in the future, for instance improving product information and understanding. However, the Report as it stands does more damage than good.

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