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BLOG: Why do insurers make it so hard to cancel auto-renewal?

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

One reason: Money.

UK drivers are collectively stung for about £1.9bn a year by allowing their car insurer to auto-renew their policy. But getting your insurer to stop this nefarious tactic is not easy – as I found out when my car insurance came up for renewal.

My insurer Hastings Direct emailed me to say my policy was due to renew. The email said it would cost more than last year (despite not making a claim, changing my car, or committing a driving offence) and that it would take money from my card in a few weeks’ time.

The email said I could use Hastings Direct’s app or website to view my renewal and account. So, I headed to my online account to cancel my renewal, having had several cheaper quotes from comparison sites for my car insurance.

But here’s where things got… really annoying. My online account with Hastings Direct said I couldn’t cancel auto-renewal online, I had to call. This was a pain – after all I could do everything else regarding my policy online, including buying it in the first place.

So, I called Hastings Direct, sat through five minutes of pressing 1 for this, 2 for that etc, only to be told it was “too busy” to take my call. Oh.

I turned to Twitter to voice my frustrations and found I wasn’t alone. Hastings Direct didn’t seem to be answering the phone to anyone and people weren’t happy.

Why were customers calling Hastings Direct anyway when it’s all-singing, all-dancing app and online account let you do everything you needed to do? Well, everything except cancel the money-making ruse that is auto-renewal.

My guess is call centre traffic would be eased if they let customers cancel online. But, of course, Hastings Direct doesn’t; it makes it as difficult as possible in the hope customers will give up and let their policy rollover for another year.

Hastings Direct’s Twitter person eventually cancelled the auto-renewal on my policy – and I noticed I’d had exactly the same complaint and the same conversation last year. This time last year I’d wanted to cancel auto-renewal as Hastings Direct would offer me a cheaper price via a comparison site as a “new” customer, proving once again that auto-renewal to be a money-making scam.

But this year I found that whole saga so annoying that I decided to move to another insurer, whether or not Hastings Direct was still the cheapest.

Hastings Direct told me they automatically “opt-in” (an interesting choice of phrase, seeing as you can’t opt-out) customers to auto-renewal as it was “common practice” in insurance (Ah, that old chestnut!). Also, it just didn’t want customers to risk being uninsured at the end of the policy term (thanks for thinking of me guys).

It also claimed that “At any point up to when the renewal invite is sent, a customer can opt out of auto renewal online via MyAccount or on the app. Customers can also opt out over the phone at any time.”

So, basically, the option to opt out of auto-renewal online or on the app is removed when the renewal invite is sent out – i.e. the exact time you might think “Hang on! I don’t want this policy to auto-renew. I want to shop around for a better deal”.

Make of that what you will.