Notwithstanding the clogged roads due to last minute shopping and holiday travel, there is the real prospect of petrol prices heading back towards £1.30 a litre, as well as a backlash against diesel cars and vans in major conurbations. So far, four major cities, including Paris and Madrid, have said they will ban all diesel vehicles by 2025, and the Mayor of London is under increasing pressure to do the same.
But it is soaring claims, whiplash fraud and premium inflation that are really hurting motorists. According to research published this week, car insurance premiums are now 12 per cent higher than they were just a year ago – a £100 rise for the average motorist. MoneySuperMarket, the price comparison site, analysed 873,000 customer quotes run on the website and found annual premiums are now around £597. Between October and November alone, premiums rose by 4 per cent.
An announcement in the Autumn Statement did little to help. Last month the Chancellor announced that insurance premium tax (IPT) would increase from 10 per cent to 12 per cent in June 2017. That’s the third hike in less than 18 months and means that the tax has doubled in that time. Looking back to when IPT was first introduced back in 1994, it came in at 2.5 per cent. That’s a far cry from today’s rate. As IPT affects more than 50 million insurance policies, including motor, taken together the three increases will raise more than £13 billion for the Government over five years. The Association of British Insurers has called it “a hammer blow for the hard-pressed”.
Meanwhile, the AA has said that “the Chancellor has created the illusion of being the motorists’ friend with a freeze on fuel duty while pickpocketing drivers on Insurance Premium Tax’. Yes, there have been more than five years of duty freezes but motoring organisations argue that “what the Treasury has given with one hand has been taken back in spade loads from other motoring taxes”.
Then there are claims levels to take into account
The Association of British Insurers calculates that, in 2015, 4.3 million claims were made on car insurance policies to 19 insurers (the bulk of the market). The average driver received a payout of £2,160. But it is fraudulent whiplash claims that are really driving up the cost of insurance. These erroneous claims add around £40 to £50 to the average annual insurance premium. While there are genuine injuries, many are either exaggerated or completely fabricated, so much so that the UK is known as the “whiplash capital of the world”. In fact, research by the AA found that one in ten people see “nothing wrong” with claiming for fake whiplash. Maybe it’s no wonder given the number of cold-calling firms trying to persuade people to make a claim.
All told, there were more than 800,000 small injury claims registered through the Ministry of Justice small claims track last year, of which 750,000 were estimated to be whiplash injury claims.
Nevertheless, the Government is taking steps to combat fraudulent whiplash claims. Last month the Ministry of Justice announced a consultation into the cost of whiplash claims. While the outcome of this investigation is some way off, motoring groups are pressing for a cap on compensation for minor injuries, a total ban on injury compensation for very minor collisions, and payment of compensation mostly in the form of care, rather than all in cash.
The insurance industry welcomed the Government’s decision to mount a consultation
Matt Oliver, spokesperson for Gocompare.com Car Insurance, said: “The measures outlined by the Ministry of Justice in its consultation should provide a more effective way of identifying have-a-go compensation chasers and reduce the volume and cost of these sorts of claims. The announcement is long overdue but if, in future, insurers are able to only pay out for genuine claims, it will make a significant difference to all of our car insurance premiums.”