Case study – Insurance brokers must ensure that any guidance they use to assist their customers is clear and does not provide misleading advice or information

We were recently contacted by an insurance broker who wished to place an advert on our online magazine, theRecord.

In line with our standard procedures, we reviewed the insurer’s website to ensure that they were a reputable company and able to help people with convictions.

Although the organisation were offering a range of products suitable for people with convictions, we were concerned about the wording of one of the questions posed on their FAQ page. This stated:-

 

Question – What would happen if I did not disclose my criminal record?

 

Answer – A criminal record is classed as a material fact. Therefore, if this material fact is not disclosed then your insurer has a number of rights. If a claim occurs then they have the right to refuse to pay out on the claim.

 

We felt that this question and answer was somewhat misleading as it did not take account of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and implied that an insurer could refuse to pay out on a claim if an individual had not disclosed both spent and unspent convictions.

We highlighted our concerns to the broker, namely:

  1. As no reference was made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, then potentially a customer could over-disclose their criminal record, providing details of convictions which legally, the broker would not be eligible to know about. We suggested that the broker reviewed their question and make reference to the disclosure of unspent convictions only. We also provided the broker with a link to our disclosure calculator which we felt may assist the broker’s customers in working out when their convictions would become spent and could provide written evidence if required.
  2. In the answer section which referred to a criminal conviction being classed as a material fact, we highlighted to the broker that as of April 2013, changes to insurance disclosure law had been implemented which meant that ‘material facts’ related only to commercial insurance policies. Therefore, when purchasing personal insurance policies, individuals only needed to disclose details of their convictions to an insurer if they were specifically asked to do so.

Soon after this, the broker contacted us to confirm that they had made some amendments to the wording of their FAQ page. The new wording was as follows:

 

Question – What would happen if I did not disclose my unspent conviction?

 

Answer – A criminal conviction is classed as a material fact as long as it is not deemed as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

 

Lessons

This case shows how important it is for organisations to keep up to date with changes in legislation both that relating to their own work sector (for example insurance law) and wider legislation (such as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act).

By potentially taking into account information which they are not entitled to have, insurers run the risk of breaking data protection legislation.

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Notes about this case study

This case study relates to our work with other organisations.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

 

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