Best and worst ways to buy insurance

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Buy insurance from a bank or insurance broker and you’re much less likely to be a satisfied customer, Consumer NZ’s annual insurance survey shows.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says those who brought life or general insurance from a bank or broker were significantly less likely to be satisfied, compared with those who bought direct from an insurance company.

Sue says while customer satisfaction in the insurance industry wasn’t high, the survey showed banks and brokers were performing the worst.

“Just 47 per cent who bought house insurance from a bank and 51 per cent who bought from a broker thought they were getting good service. In comparison, 57 per cent who bought direct from the insurer were happy with the service they received.”

The difference in satisfaction was even larger with life insurance she says.

Only 28 per cent buying life insurance from a bank and 32 per cent buying from a broker rated the service they received highly. That compared with 47 per cent who bought their cover direct from the insurer.

Sue says sales incentives and commissions paid to bank staff and insurance brokers were likely a major factor behind the difference.

Last year, the Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank published reviews of the insurance industry, criticising companies for failing to recognise the huge conflicts of interest created by commission-based selling.

“In the life insurance industry, brokers’ commissions can be as high as 200 per cent of the customer’s premium. A broker chasing another commission to boost their income is going to do what’s best for them, not what’s best for the consumer,” she says.

Sue encourages consumers to regularly review their insurance and shop around if they weren’t getting good service:

When you get your annual renewal notice, check if you could save by switching companies.

Get at least three quotes. Premiums can differ by hundreds of dollars.

If you’re unsure about what a policy covers and the exclusions, get the company to explain it to you in writing.

Regularly review how much cover you need, especially after major events such as marriage or divorce, having children, or children leaving home and becoming independent.

If you’re changing insurers, don't cancel your old cover until you’re confirmed as a customer of your new insurer on terms you’re comfortable with.

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