Why Motor Legal Protection is a rip off and the free alternative

I have asked Lee Jones from Free Motor Legal Ltd to explain Motor Legal Protection, how it works (a sham) and some more about his site. Read on and save yourself £30 a year.

What is motor legal protection?

Motor legal protection (MLP) is also known as legal expenses insurance. In the UK, policies covering motor legal expenses insurance are usually sold alongside the main motor insurance policy as an “add-on”. The typical premium is around £30.00.

The general purpose of the policies is to allow access to legal services and cover the fees of the appointed lawyers after a collision which was not the fault of the policyholder in order to recover any losses and expenses and/or compensation for personal injuries.

The policyholder does not get a choice of the lawyers, these will be appointed by the legal expenses insurer and, in order to receive any advice or assistance, the policyholder must have a claim with “reasonable prospects of success”. In other words you need to have a better than 50% chance of succeeding with your claim, otherwise assistance under the policy will be denied.

So where is the sham?

Well it starts with the cost of the policies

As advised, they generally retail at around £30.00, but the actual net cost to the insurer, broker or price comparison site you are buying the cover from can be as low as £0.50p, yes 50 pence! It has even been known for some brokers and insurers to get the underwriting for free as the service providers used will pay for the underwriting in order to secure the deal. But let us assume the cost is 50p per policy. When that is retailed to the customer for £30.00, it amounts to a mark-up of 6000%. Now that is a pretty ridiculous profit margin for any business, yet we allegedly have a fiercely competitive insurance industry which favours the consumer according to the trade body for UK insurers, the Association of British Insurers.

The fact is, aside from a small handful of standalone providers who retail the policies at a lower amount, the premium of around £30 per policy has become somewhat standard and few, if any insurers want to cut each other’s throats with a race to the bottom when it comes to the price of the add-ons. They can often make more profit from the sale of the add-ons than the actual motor insurance policy itself.

decorated car with added parts

Next are the restrictions on the policies…

which cause households and businesses with more than one vehicle to have to purchase Motor Legal Protection several times over. The general policy wording states that assistance will only be given for claims arising out of the use of the vehicle insured under the main motor policy. So an example would be a household with say 2 vehicles. Husband has a car insured in his name with the wife as a named driver on his policy. He purchases legal expenses cover on top of his policy. The wife has her own car and insures it in her name with the husband as a named driver, but she does not take out legal cover.

If the wife had a non-fault accident in her own vehicle, she could not use the husband’s legal cover to seek recovery of any losses or expenses or claim any compensation if she suffered injury. She would have to either try and claim for these losses by herself, or end up instructing a solicitor under a no win- no fee agreement, which would see her most likely lose 25% of any awarded compensation to the lawyer in “success fees”.

So the insurance industry has this area well and truly sewn up when it comes to households and businesses with more than one vehicle needing to buy this product several times over.

For private cars alone, excluding motorcycles and vans, using Department of Transport figures, there are over 30 million registered cars on the UK roads. For the owners of those vehicles to have motor legal protection covering each vehicle at a cost of £30.00 each, that amounts to £900 Million in premiums! Did we mention that 6000% mark-up? Plus if you add on motorcyclists and van/ light commercial vehicles, the figures are staggering, well over £1billion in premiums.

blue beetle car

OK so the mark-up is a bit rich, but you said it was all a sham

Well yes it is really, because working behind the scenes for 20 years dealing with motor claims litigation for both insurers and independent solicitors has revealed that the policies never truly get “used” or seldom pay out any legal fees and disbursements.

What this means is that the insurers do very little other than earn money from selling the policy, but they get an extra slice of income if the policyholder has a non-fault collision resulting in the need for a replacement vehicle to be provided (credit hire car) or if they suffer personal injury and make a compensation claim.

The reason for this is that for decades, legal expenses policies have just been used as “claims capture mechanisms” in order to refer customers needing vehicle repairs and hire to credit hire companies and for personal injury claims to be referred to a panel of law firms. When this happens money changes hands in the form of referral fees previously and now “marketing fees” or profit shares. These get passed back to the insurer, broker or price comparison site you purchased the policy from. So a nice little earner selling the customer a policy at a ridiculous mark up and then another earner if the customer calls them after a non-fault accident.

The legal expenses insurer can then just sit back and do nothing as the law firms who are on their panel of approved firms have usually agreed never to claim against the policy, even when a case has been lost and they are out of pocket for fees and expenses. Put simply, for the lawyers, the good cases cover the cost of the ones which do not succeed.

This all happens under the veil of the clause in the legal expenses policy which states that cases must have “reasonable prospects of success”. This allows the law firms to vet cases they wish to take forwards and those which they do not. If the case looks like it is lacking in evidence or prospects of success, the law firm can just use the “reasonable prospects” clause to state that an indemnity under the legal policy will not be granted and therefore they do not take the case forwards. On cases which succeed, the lawyers get paid their fees by the insurance company of the at-fault third party motorist.

So this leaves the legal expenses insurer in a situation where they do not need to pay any legal fees, despite the policies often providing “£100’000 of legal expenses costs” because, if the case is no good the lawyers will just not take it forwards and therefore no legal fees will arise. On the cases they win, they will be paid by the third party insurance company, again causing no legal fees to be paid by the legal expenses insurer. If the appointed lawyers lose a case, they have often agreed not to bother the legal expenses insurer and therefore just have to absorb the costs. Either way, there are no panel lawyers knocking on the door of the legal expenses insurer for payment of costs.

Some years ago, the Financial Conduct Authority wished to explore more ways for customers to see the value of the “add-on” insurance products they often purchase, such as motor legal protection. One suggestion was for such insurers to publish payment details of how much and often they had made payments under claims against their policies.

The mouthpiece for the UK insurance industry, The Association Of British Insurers (ABI) were quick to jump in and allege this would not show people the value of such policies and the FCA immediately backed down, duly issuing guidance for a very watered down selection of insurers providing cover for mobile phones to publish such information. Why was this?

Well, in our view, this was because it would quickly expose the racket that was motor legal expenses insurance by proving our experience that these policies cost the insurers almost nothing to underwrite, are sold at a vast mark up to the consumer and then rarely ever incur any financial outlay due to the law firms they instruct agreeing never to seek payment of any fees from them.

car text- How to protect yourself from the motor legal sham

Free Motor Legal Limited

On seeing how the industry really worked behind the scenes, I chose to do something about it and founded Free Motor Legal Ltd, providing British motorists with a free alternative to paying for motor legal protection.

The company was founded in 2012 and allows motorists in England, Scotland and Wales to register for free lifetime membership, shaving that extra £30 a year off their vehicle insurance costs, whilst providing the same basic assistance after a non-fault collision.

The membership is just tied to the member themselves, rather than operating around the use of just one vehicle, so households with more than one vehicle enjoy greater savings.

Free Motor Legal arrange for replacement vehicles and repairs to be carried out without the member needing to claim through their own insurance policy, avoiding the need for any excess to be paid as the costs of repairs and replacement vehicle hire are met by the insurers of the party at fault.

If other losses arise such as lost earnings, medication costs, travel expenses or compensation for personal injury, Free Motor Legal will arrange for one of their panel solicitors to be appointed and these losses pursued from the insurer of the at-fault third party. There is no deduction taken from the awarded losses and compensation and the costs are met by the insurers of the third party.

Like the paid for products offered by the insurance industry, Free Motor Legal Ltd do receive commission payments from some of their service providers, such as hire companies, but they do not charge their members £30 a year to simply pass their details onto lawyers and stand back.

Note from me! I’ve done it and you don’t even have to remember to renew! It’s there for life!

See How to save money on your car insurance for more ways to save.

Lee Jones

Lee Jones, aged 43 has been married 17 years to Michelle. They live in Norfolk with a dog and cat.  They relocated from York after Lee was diagnosed with Stage 4 Bowel cancer in Jan 2017 and is on long term palliative care.

Lee worked for law firms and major insurers  as a litigator since the early 90’s.  He started working in criminal law and was a police station adviser duly advising clients in police custody and assisting in Crown Court trials. He then worked for Norwich Union in their in-house legal dept in 1997 until 1999 defending claims against their policyholders. Thereafter he has worked for several Claimant law firms dealing with road accident claims since 1999 until setting up Free Motor Legal, after realising that he could help motorists gain the same services without needing to buy a motor legal protection policy.

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If you have any problems with car insurance or most other sectors GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

How to save money on your car insurance

Update to this post. 10 May 2018

In April new rules came into force for insurers. These rules mean that insurers must provide the cost of the previous year as well as the renewal. This way it is clearer for consumers to see just how big the hike is.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) have published new Guiding Principles and Action Points for members to ensure customers who don’t switch every year are offered a fairer deal. However, does this go far enough?

Vulnerable customers in particular are still likely to be hit. Those who don’t have Internet access, those who don’t know they can switch etc. Will they continue to accept the hike? More needs to be done to educate consumers that they can switch. And more needs to be done to make insurers reward loyalty. As I’ve said many times about other sectors, telecoms in particular, it needs a company to take a risk for a couple of years. Say it will invest in customer service, training and take a hit by not hiking prices and gain the loyalty and spread the message through word of mouth (and social media etc!)

The ABI and BIBA has said it wants members to provide all the information about switching in their correspondence but will it happen? They need to do more to encourage companies to do right by their customers.

 

Most people still aren’t aware that they should not just let their car insurance renew. Just like house and buildings every year, it is rare that your renewal will be cheaper than starting afresh. I have just taken out my car insurance, and, (after recovering from the jaw drop of seeing how much my car has gone down in value!) thought I’d give you some figures just to show you the importance of shopping around and not just using comparison websites. These are all quotes from today 11th October 2017.

1st Central renewal quote £505.00
1st Central renewal online chat £490.00 (when stopping auto renewal online chat)
1st Central direct on website £473.95
Moneysupermarket.com (1st Central cheapest) £503.31
Confused.com (AA cheapest) £393.91
Comparethemeerkat (MoreThan cheapest) £385.12
MoreThan direct on website £382.28
AA direct on website £348.31
AA through Topcashback £348.31 (minus £40 paid to Topcashback account)

A saving of £196.69 (39%) of the renewal price. It is such a boring way to spend half an hour of your life, it really is! But! How can you not do it when it saves this sort of money?

Topcashback* is a great cashback site. Go there before buying anything. Sign up and whenever you shop check Topcashback first. If the store is listed click on the link and get cashback. Don’t rely on this though as there may be terms and conditions that you miss (such as using vouchers) negating the cashback. Other big cashback sites include Kidstart* (where the cashback goes to your nominated child’s bank account), Quidco* and Free fivers*. Others that I’ve not used are  Imutual, Give or take and there are others. It is worth signing up to a few as they all have different traders,  % cashback and offers on at various times. Time consuming but worth it more often than not! £40 for taking an extra five minutes is quite a nice hourly rate (if only I could do it all hours!)

A dozen top tips for saving money on motor insurance

  • Last year, using a cashback site wasn’t cheaper, somehow in the system it knew! So don’t think that after getting your cheapest quote you always get the cashback from the same price. Clear your cookies which may help!
  • Don’t completely disregard your renewal quote as most companies are nearly always open to haggling, I’ve yet to hear of anyone failing when they do this.
  • I only went direct to the cheapest offer on each of the comparison websites
  • Some providers are only able to produce a certain number of quotations per customer, and after the limit has been reached, they will no longer be able to produce quotations online on some sites so don’t make hundreds of tweaks!
  • You can always try changing your job title. I’ve heard of people getting cheaper quotes when changing “builder” to “construction” etc., but to be perfectly honest I’ve never seen a difference and of course it does still have to describe the job! But it may work with some insurers so do try it.
  • Save your details on the comparison websites so if you keep the car you don’t have to waste your time filling it all out again.
  • Look at deals that may work out cheaper if you switch your contents and building insurance  same provider and visa versa.
  • Check the additional add ons. Do you already have breakdown cover, is something already covered by your bank, travel or house insurance?
  • Pay up front rather than in instalments if you can as this is always cheaper.
  • Adding a more experienced driver to your policy can reduce the premium.
  • Check the excess, think about how much you could afford to pay and go with that, the difference between £50 and £100 excess can reduce the amount significantly.
  • Don’t leave until the last minute, compare prices about 3 weeks before the renewal date and make sure you cancel any auto renewal!

Bonus tips!
After doing the quote and post I asked some fellow money bloggers for tips that I hadn’t thought of and now I wonder if I could have got it reduced even further!

Katy from KatyKicker  wrote about saving money on insurance and provides lots of tips, one being a really really good point! Check the policy! When you go through comparison websites check like for like, windscreen cover, legal cover, replacement car etc. And consider asking your current provider for a loyalty discount rather than just quoting competitors’ prices.

I never go for all the legal cover. But Emma from TheMoneyWhisperer has written about how to get free legal protection from Freemotorlegal and I’ve just signed up! Then Lee from Freemotorlegal wrote a guest post Why Motor Legal Protection is a rip off and the free alternative

Emily from A Thrify Fox says she had an automated email thingy from confused.com telling her that Admiral was the cheapest for her.

Now this is a little known secret and is brilliant! Emma from Mumssavvysavings wrote a post about Reducing the cost of learning to drive. In it she says that she got insurance from a company  that they pay for 28 days of insurance and it is only used on any days they choose within three months. Superb!

Do Morethan just comparison websites for insurance quotes! A couple of years ago I picked up on the differences in prices between a standard quote and a quote going through a cashback site…. I complained, obviously. No laws broken but still got the refund of the difference 🙂 Also just double check the quotes. Sometimes the cheapest quote is for 10 months!

 

 

If you need help with a complaint re insurance or anything else see Top 20 Tips How to Complain! For much more advice, guidance, templates, consumer laws and information GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

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