Travel agent insurance warningYou'll pay more and you may not be fully protected

06 July 2006

 

A late offer sign in a shop window

Holiday insurance sold by travel agents is often expensive and sold without the right questions being asked, Which? warns today.

Our undercover researchers got insurance quotes from travel agents and over the phone and online from banks and insurers. 

We wanted quotes for insurance for a two week holiday to Spain and visited four branches each of First Choice, Going Places, Thomas Cook and Thomson and went to ten independent agents. 

Researchers also phoned 18 insurers and banks twice for the same cover, and got online quotes from the websites of 24 travel agents, banks and insurers.

Travel agents came out the worst and not only are their policies generally more expensive, but we found they don't follow basic procedures when selling insurance.

Medical history

None of the agents visited followed all three of the procedures that would help ensure policies are suitable; explaining what's covered, making clear what's excluded and asking about pre-existing medical conditions.

Almost two thirds of travel agents failed to ask about medical histories and 21 of the 26 travel agents didn't explain what the policies covered. 

None pointed out what wasn't covered and this makes it more likely people will be sold an unsuitable policy that may not provide adequate cover.

Banks and insurers did better than travel agents, but there’s still room for improvement.  As banks and insurers are regulated by the Financial Services Authority, people sold an unsuitable policy can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service for help but travel agents aren't regulated in this way. 

Which? wants the government to include travel agents when it reviews regulation of the sale of travel insurance next year.  We're also urging the FSA to take action against those banks and insurers not selling insurance properly.

Peace of mind

Which Editor Neil Fowler said: 'Buying holiday insurance from a travel agent may seem the easy option, but you'll pay more and you don't have the same protection if you're sold an unsuitable policy.

'There's no reason why travel agents should be excluded from insurance regulation.  People should have the same protection and peace of mind on holiday regardless of where they've bought their travel insurance.'

Holidaymakers who want to get the right cover should follow these top five tips:

  • Declare any information that could lead to a claim
  • Check cover limits and exclusions
  • Watch out for excesses
  • Read the small print
  • Tell the insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions affecting you or anyone else on whom your holiday plans depend