The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has unveiled a series of temporary measures to help customers who hold insurance and premium finance products and who may be in financial difficulty because of the current pandemic. 

The measures will come into force on Monday 18 May 2020 and will be reviewed in the next three months in the light of developments regarding coronavirus.

Sheldon Mills, Interim Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, commented: “As with other areas of finance, we have worked quickly to draw up measures to help policyholders in financial difficulty because of coronavirus. The majority of respondents expressed support for the proposals we published at the start of May. 

“Many firms in the insurance industry have already taken some of the actions we are suggesting here to support customers, such as premium reductions, discounts, waiving fees, and payment deferrals. The measures confirmed today will provide urgent support to those that need it.”

Following a short consultation, the targeted measures being implemented require firms to consider what options they can provide to customers including:

Reassessing the risk profile of customers. This may have changed because of coronavirus and there may be scope to offer customers materially lower premiums.

Considering whether there are other products they can offer which would better meet the customers needs and revise the cover accordingly. For example, a motor insurance customer might no longer need associated add on cover such as key cover or could be moved from fully comprehensive cover to third party fire and theft.

Waiving cancellation and other fees associated with adjusting customers policies. 

These actions could result in a reduction in the monthly premium for customers paying by instalments or a partial refund of the premium for customers who have paid upfront.

The payment deferral should be granted for a period of between one and three months, though firms can go beyond three months should they wish to do so, and it is in the customer’s interests. 

Customers should be able to request a payment deferral at any point during the period up to 18 August 2020 while the window for requesting a payment deferral is open.

Where a payment deferral is not considered appropriate, firms should promptly offer other ways to provide temporary relief to the customer. These could potentially include (but not be limited to):

Accepting reduced repayments or rescheduling the term, waiving missed or late payment fees, permitting a customer to amend their repayment date without any cost. 

The body also expects firms to consider reviewing any interest rates associated with instalments to determine whether they are consistent with the obligation to treat customers fairly in the light of the exceptional circumstances arising out of coronavirus.

As part of the guidelines, firms should make clear in their communications the different solutions available to customers, encouraging them to make contact if they are experiencing temporary financial difficulties.

Customers who are struggling to afford their insurance or premium finance payments because of the impact of coronavirus should contact their insurer or insurance broker to discuss options. It is important people don’t leave themselves uninsured and should not hesitate to contact their insurer.