New insurance guidance to help 8 million consumers with past criminal convictions

by / Monday, 21 February 2011 / Published in Insurers response, Unlock in the media, Unlock publications

Unlock has joined up with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to produce guidance for consumers and insurers on the complex issue of criminal convictions and insurance.

According to government figures, more than 8 million people in England and Wales have a criminal conviction and one in three men are convicted by the age of fifty-three.

Consumers are legally required to declare convictions even if insurers do not ask about them, unless they are considered ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. A fine or community order must be declared for five years, while short custodial sentences must be declared for between seven and ten years. People sentenced to more than thirty months must disclose their convictions for the rest of their life.

The laws apply to anyone covered by a policy, including partners and children on home policies and named drivers on motor policies. If a child receives a fine then their parents must disclose the conviction for 30 months as disclosure periods are shorter for people convicted when under the age of eighteen.

Many insurers take unspent convictions into account when assessing risk. If ‘unspent’ convictions are not disclosed insurers are able to avoid any claims made on the policy.

Unlock’s guidance, which has been sponsored by online insurers homeprotect, highlights consumers’ legal obligations and provides advice on how to buy insurance. The ABI’s guidance covers insurers’ legal obligations and industry best practice, such as including clear questions about convictions to make sure consumers get appropriate cover.

Chris Bath, Director of Projects at Unlock said: “Financial services are a crucial foundation for engagement in modern society. If we want people to lead productive lives; working, paying taxes and providing their family with a home, we cannot allow the justice system to sever people from their finances, even less to create lifelong financial exclusion.”

Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance and Health, said: “Access to, and fair treatment by, financial services providers is a key part of financial inclusion. We recognise that some people with criminal convictions and related offences may encounter difficulties when looking for insurance. We have produced guidance for our members to ensure that people with criminal convictions get a fair deal from insurers. Customers can expect insurers following the guidance to provide clear information about how they use criminal convictions, ask clear and concise questions, and help those to whom they may be unable to insure.”

 

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