Changes to insurance disclosure

The reason for this update is to let you know of some changes to insurance disclosure, which came into force in April 2013, which should help many people with convictions. We updated the guidance on our website at the time, but to raise awareness of this, we thought we’d send around an e-update as well!

For many years, people with convictions have found themselves in a difficult situation when purchasing insurance. This is because of archaic insurance law dating back to the Marine Insurance Act 1906, which imposed heavy duties on all consumers to disclose all material facts, even if the insurer didn’t ask about them specifically. If you failed to guess what the insurer wanted to know, your claim could be rejected.

In 2008, the Law Commission consulted on whether the law should be changed. Unlock made a submission which highlighted the problems that the law caused for people with convictions. Following this consultation, the Law Commission recommended a change in the law. Unlock, along with a number of other consumer organisations (including Age UK, Consumer Focus and Which?), worked hard to push the Government to change the law. This was successful in March 2012, when the Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Act 2012 received Royal Assent.

The Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representation) Act 2012 came into force on 6th April 2013. It removes the duty on consumers to volunteer ‘material facts’ if about certain convictions (e.g. non-motoring convictions). Previously, you had to disclose all unspent criminal convictions, regardless of whether you were asked about them. This is no longer the case.
The onus now sits squarely with the insurer to ask you the questions that they want to know information about. Instead of a duty to volunteer material facts, now the law requires you to answer the questions that are put to you fully and accurately. You need to “take reasonable care”, and one of the factors that will be taken into account is whether the questions asked by the insurer were clear and specific.

For more information

We’ve published a guide on the changes to insurance disclosure. We’ve also updated our simple and detailed guides, as well as updating our list of insurance brokers and list of motor insurers. As always, all of this can be downloaded from the insurance section of our website.

Can you help us improve our lists?

Since these changes have come in, some insurers have changed the questions they ask. Some mainstream motor insurers, for example, have started asking about non-motoring convictions, meaning we’ve had to take them off our specific list of motor insurers that didn’t ask about non-motoring convictions.

However, there are many other insurers that ask quite specific questions about convictions (e.g. convictions in the last 5 years). For these insurers, even if your conviction is unspent, if it was after this period, you do not need to disclose.

As a result, we’re in the process of reviewing our list of motor insurers, to identify more mainstream companies that do not ask about certain convictions. We’re also looking to produce a similar list of home insurers, providing details of companies that ask quite specific questions. If you come across any specific insurers that you think should be included in either of these, please let us know by emailing the details to advice@unlock.org.uk.

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Christopher Stacey