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Automatically renewed insurance

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 15:04 UK time, Monday, 21 February 2011

North Wales viewer Pauline Edwards likes to shop around to make sure she gets the best deals, and this is especially true when it comes to her home insurance. She uses comparison sites and is keen to look after her money.

So when it came to taking out home insurance she checked out all of the best options on the internet. She purchased what she thought was a one-off policy with Tesco Home Insurance, but had unknowingly signed up to automatic renewal of the insurance even though she tries to avoid the practice.

Pauline said, "From previous experience I was aware of their Automatic Renewal but saw nothing on paperwork so was happy that I wasn't committed to them for any further years."

Pauline Edwards

Pauline Edwards

When her policy ended Mrs Edwards thought she was free to shop around and that her Tesco policy would end without her needing to take any action, but she wasn't. They had sent her what she assumed was a quote and ignored it. So she was shocked when, a few weeks later, Tesco's were able to renewal her policy and take £215 from her credit card, even though it had expired.

Pauline was furious but Tesco's was using a method called continuous payment authority which insurers use to take money from your account when they automatically renew your policy.

This method means you've agreed that the company can keep charging you for the same product again and again. And unlike direct debits where you contact the bank to cancel the payment, with these agreements you need to contact the company to cancel the payment.

Money expert Ed Bowsher from LoveMoney.com says automatic renewal using continuous payment authority is becoming increasingly common and that customers need to be aware of the practice.

He said, "When they're asking you to tick a box to ask if you want Automatic Renewal after a year, don't tick the box.

"They're relying on consumers being lazy and just renewing the same old policy and so what they'll do is bump up the premium after the first year and then you carry on paying premiums year after year and what you should be doing is shopping around and getting the best deal that's on offer at that time."

Tescos have since refunded Pauline's fees after we contacted them. They say they regret that she felt the process wasn't clear but stress the need to check the terms and conditions carefully before buying a policy. They also point out that customers can now simply tick a box online if they don't want their insurance to be automatically renewed.

Now Pauline wants other people to be aware of the practice when they take out their next insurance policy.

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