More than a million UK householders are to get refunds on their recent mortgage protection insurance monthly payments, after the City watchdog, the FSA, forced PPI providers including giant firms such as Aviva and Abbey; to pay back over GBP60 million in increased Mortgage Protection Insurance premiums, which were slapped on already cash strapped mortgage borrowers earlier this year.
Over 2.1 million UK consumers have policies to repay mortgages and loans with accident, sickness and unemployment insurance attached.
The major UK money lenders have had over 10 years of collecting premiums on inflated house prices, with very few claims. But with claims now rising due to the recession, they’ve been recently hiking up the rates on many of these policies to maintain their profit levels.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance (MPPI) firms have agreed an industry-wide package of measures for consumers, including refunds of around £60 million.
The industry has acted in response to FSA concerns over recent increases in premiums and reductions in what customers are covered for under their policy. The FSA’s concerns centred on the terms permitting these changes, and how clearly they were disclosed. The FSA expects its concerns to be addressed by the agreement reached.
Following discussions initiated by the FSA with relevant trade bodies and some firms, the industry has responded positively by agreeing to:
• proactively refund increases in premiums, and reverse any reductions in cover, for customers who have experienced these changes to their policy in 2009;
• offer to reinstate policies where a customer had cancelled it within two months of an increase in premium or reduction in cover made during 2009;
• freeze premiums and cover for existing customers for at least the remainder of this year
• amend Mortgage Protection Insurance contracts to ensure that all customers are made aware of the circumstances in which firms have the right to vary premiums and cover.
New contracts will mean customers get a fairer deal with two months’ notice of any changes to enable people to compare mortgage protection insurance products and switch mortgage protection if necessary.
Jon Pain, managing director of supervision at the FSA, said:
“The FSA welcomes this positive move by Mortgage Protection Insurance firms to reverse recent changes in premiums or cover which will put affected customers back in the position they were in before the policy was changed. It will also give all MPPI customers clarity about when and why firms will be able to vary these in future.
“This clarity will provide the basis for MPPI to remain a valuable option for many mortgage customers who wish to take out protection, alongside the mortgage commitment they are taking on.”
The affected companies will contact customers if their policy is affected, and will make all refunds by the end of June 2010.
The Consumer Panel has also welcomed the announcement today of FSA action and an industry-wide refund on Mortgage Protection Insurance.
Adam Phillips, Chairman of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, said:
“This is exactly what a financial regulator should be here for and we applaud the FSA’s action. It cannot be right that firms change the terms and conditions of an insurance policy just as times get hard and when people are more likely to try to claim on it.
We note that this agreement is to freeze premiums and cover for existing customers until at least January 2010. We will be watching to see how the FSA ensures Mortgage Protection customers continue to get a fair deal beyond this date. Significant changes to cover go against the whole principle of why people pay for insurance and undermine consumers’ trust in the industry.”