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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Getting advice on insurance products

You can buy insurance based on information only or after getting advice. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulates most sales of insurance in the UK. Insurance advisers must only recommend an insurance policy that's suitable for you.

The difference between advice and information

When you get insurance advice, the broker or adviser looks at your individual circumstances and needs and recommends a policy to meet them. This often involves a face-to-face meeting, but you can get advice in other ways, for example by telephone, email, or through the post. Under FSA rules, if the advice turns out to be unsuitable you have the right to complain and, in some circumstances, may be able to claim compensation.

Buying without advice

UK firms that sell insurance without advice still have to follow FSA rules, for example by providing you with information about their service and products (see next section). But if you buy this way it's for you to decide whether or not you think the policy is suitable for you. If things go wrong it may be harder to complain.

Information the insurance broker must give you

FSA authorised firms must follow certain rules and standards when dealing with you, including giving you the relevant information needed to buy insurance.

Information about a broker's service

When you contact an insurance provider, they will give you details of the service they offer. It may be in a 'about our service document', but doesn't have to be.

They will tell you:

  • whether they're offering you advice or just information about the product
  • whose insurance policies they offer - it may be from one company or many
  • how much you'll have to pay for the service

Use this document, or information, to shop around to get the service you want at the price you're happy with.

Information about the insurance policy

Once you've discussed what you need and answered all the questions about yourself and what you want to insure, the intermediary, insurance company or the firm selling you the insurance will give you key policy information. This sets out the essential facts.

For investment-type insurance they must give you a more detailed key features document which includes an illustration of how your investment might perform over time.

How to check if a firm is FSA authorised

You can check whether a firm or individual is FSA authorised by using their online Check our Register service.

Firms operating from outside the UK

Most European insurance advisers are regulated in their own country, but you'll need to check this - and what rights you have should the product turn out to be unsuitable. Firms operating from outside the European Economic Area (or sometimes within it, but from outside the UK), or using an overseas call centre, may not be regulated at all.

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