A new study has found that insurers are taking into account convictions they’re legally bound to disregard.
Under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, a spent conviction is one which can be effectively ignored after a specified amount of time. Yet, 19% of insurance companies allow spent convictions to affect how they deal with people seeking home cover – either by refusing to quote or hiking the premium by over 200%.
Out of the 42 providers studied by charity for people with convictions Unlock, 67% do not refer to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 or the need to only disclose unspent convictions, when asking whether applicants had ever been convicted.
Unlock also cited a great variation in both the ways the questions were asked and the guidance provided.
“This was confusing to customers and risked people either disclosing information they did not have to, or not disclosing information they did have to,” it said.
In addition, disclosing something which prospective policyholders have a legal right not to could lead to an insurer holding personal information they are not entitled to hold under the Data Protection Act 1998.
More importantly, as concluded by the charity, insurers are breaking the law by taking these spent convictions into account.
“One provider – Direct Line – quoted a higher premium when informed of a spent conviction. The premium went up from £58.04 to £129.31,” read the findings.
The study also noted: “Seven providers (Aviva, Co-op, esure, LV, Littlewoods, Sheilas’ Wheels, and Very) refused to quote, even though the conviction was spent.”
According to Unlock co-director Christopher Stacey, the charity regularly gets contacted by those who are confused by what they are being asked to disclose when applying for insurance. He said insurers should implement clear and consistent wording.
Stacey added that the findings will be referred to the Information Commissioners Office, as the charity believes firms are breaching the principles of the Data Protection Act.