Travel agents mis-selling travel insurance

Sainsbury's Travel Insurance is urging holidaymakers to stand up to those travel agents still using bullying tactics to sell insurance. Its alarming new research estimates that in the past 12 months up to 3.56 million people have fallen victim to dubious sales practices when purchasing insurance from travel agents.

The research also suggests that many travel agents are not following basic procedures to ensure that the travel insurance policies they sell are appropriate to their customers' needs. It indicated that around 17% of those who bought insurance from a travel agent claimed they were not asked if they had a pre-existing medical condition, whilst 13% said that their travel agent had not explained what their travel insurance did or did not cover. 9% revealed that they had been wrongly advised that they could only secure their holiday if they also bought their travel insurance there and then.

Steve Johnson, Head of Travel Insurance at Sainsbury's says: "It is tempting to purchase cover from the travel agent when the pressure is on and you're told it's a popular destination and there's no guarantee they'll be any room left – but the only way to be sure you get the cover appropriate for all your needs at a price that's right is to shop around. If you know roughly where you plan to go and for how long, there's nothing to stop you obtaining your insurance before you step foot in the travel agent especially when considering an annual policy."

Type of dubious sales practice - % who have bought insurance from a travel agent in the last 12 months;-

  • My travel agent did not ask me if I had a pre-existing medical condition 17%
  • My travel agent did not explain what their travel insurance policy did or did not cover 13%
  • My travel agent told me that to book my trip I also needed to buy their travel insurance policy at the time of booking or the trip would not be secured 9%

Earlier this year, it was announced that insurance policies sold by travel agents will finally be regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which should give greater protection to consumers. However, full regulation will not happen until 2009 so Sainsbury's Bank urges people to be on their guard to ensure that if they are purchasing their insurance from their travel agent, they don't feel pressured and understand exactly what the policy will cover.

Sainsbury’s Travel Insurance uses a very flexible screening process. If a person has a medical condition or has suffered from a serious illness in the past, it looks to develop a comprehensive understanding of their health and the risks involved so that on an individual basis, cover can be provided whenever possible.

To ensure you have adequate cover before you head off on your travels and to help avoid the heavy handed tactics of some travel agents and the poor sales processes that mean you get cover you can't use,

Sainsburys Travel Insurance offers the following advice for purchasing cover:

Be prepared

If you have a good idea of destination and duration of your trip, have your travel insurance in place before you go to travel agent and take details of the policy with you. Or at least have telephone number in your mobile and call and arrange cover from the shop once you have decided on your holiday.

Don’t be bullied

If your travel agent insists that you purchase its insurance policy before it can sell you a holiday, find another travel agent.

How comprehensive is the cover?

The first consideration is to understand the basics of what you need in order to find the right product for you. Not only should you ensure that you have cover for all of the main problems you could encounter on your travels such as cancellation, the cost of medical treatment, money being stolen or lost or even missing your flight, you should also check the full range of benefits and exclusions within the policy.

Three points that you should ask the travel agent:

1. Check that the policy covers you for any pre-existing medical conditions whilst on holiday

2. Request a copy of the full policy booklet before committing to buy in order that you can check the level of cover offered.

3. Ensure you are covered for any winter sports, water sports, golf equipment etc if you intend to take part in any of these activities abroad.

Dealing with the insurance company

Always read the small print and make sure you are up front with your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions, if you fail to do so you could later find that you are not covered. With Sainsbury’s Travel Insurance, customers will be asked a number of medical questions and they may also be referred to medically trained staff that can help ensure they receive the most appropriate cover if they have an existing medical condition.

Are you paying a fair price?

Once you have identified the level and quality of cover that’s right for you, you then need to review the cost of the policy and make sure it is competitive.

If you are planning to take more than one trip during the year, one of the best ways in which to reduce the cost of travel insurance is to buy an annual policy as opposed to single trip cover.

As a minimum, you should have at least the following levels of cover:

1. Cancellation cover of £5,000

2. Medical expenses cover of £10million

3. Personal liability cover of £2million

4. Lost baggage cover of £1,500.

5. Personal Accident cover of £25,000

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Travel agents mis-selling travel insurance
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