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Theherald

SWITCHING IS A NO-BRAINER, BUT WE DON'T

The latest 'switching' survey from the National Consumer Agency is predictable, if depressing - SINEAD RYAN

We're used to austerity and most of us have got quite good at it, if only because we were left with no other choice.

As we juggle extra taxes, lower incomes and keeping on top of the bills, but we're still bad at switching service providers like insurance and utilities.

It's easier at the supermarket. Most of us are happy to switch biscuits, detergent and flour to say, own brand labels, if the price warrants it.

We know the quality is probably just as good and many of us have voted with our feet to Lidl and Aldi which have seen huge market share increases.

So what's the problem with house insurance or the gas bill then? Just 25pc of people switched car insurance provider last year- and that was the single highest service switch.

Only 13pc changed phone or broadband provider and yet 80pc of those who did found they saved money by doing so.

I fear the answer lies with the companies themselves, especially insurers.

You know the dreaded feeling when that thick envelope arrives on the mat: your renewal letter accompanied by a hefty bundle of paper full of terms and conditions. You're bamboozled before you can even find the premium.

Not to worry: there's usually a big statement on the front page that if you want to renew you need 'Do Nothing'! Phew! That's that sorted for another year, then.

APATHY

The truth is that most service providers rely on customer apathy.

They don't want you going online to bonkers.ie or consumerhelp.ie or other sites designed to get you a better deal.

They don't want you calling up the competition and wading through your personal details.

They want you not pay any heed to the fact that the premium's gone up four-fold since you signed up with them way back.

For older people, loyalty can be a misplaced emotion. There are still thousands of elderly who genuinely believe, for example, that having paid the VHI for 40 years means they'll be 'looked after' at claim time.

They will, but what if they took a notion to move to Aviva, or Laya if it was less expensive? Well, the answer is they'd be looked after just as well because that's the law.

The truth is that switching may be a bit of a pain in the neck; it takes time (although rarely as long as you might think) and you have to get used to a new style bill.

Is all that worth paying a higher price now though? The NCA reckons you can save thousands. I know you can, because I've done just that.

Start with your car and house insurance and the mobile phone. You'll be surprised.

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