Saga home insurance premiums row

Saga Group headquarters in Folkestone, Kent
Image caption Some Saga home insurance customers say their loyalty is not being rewarded

Saga has been criticised by campaigners for older people over its home insurance prices.

Some of the firm's customers told Radio 4's Money Box programme they are paying several times more than new customers are being quoted.

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, says customers are being taken advantage of.

But Saga insists it offers the right prices for its insurance.

Loyal customers

It has become common insurance industry practice to offer big discounts to new people seeking home and contents insurance in order to attract customers searching online comparison sites.

But many of those who stay with the same insurer year after year find their premiums rise way beyond what they could be offered as a new customer, either by a rival company or even their existing insurer.

Radio 4's Money Box has received complaints from listeners of most of the big insurers, some of whom were paying more than £1,000 per annum to insure relatively modest properties and who have not recently made a major claim.

Some listeners were particularly angry with Saga, which specialises in products and services for the over-50s, as they said that age group expects Saga to offer competitive prices to loyal customers, not just new ones.

Mary from Surrey, who is in her 70s, lives in a two-bedroom Victorian semi-detached house and has been with Saga for more than 10 years, as she told Radio 4's Money Box programme: "My last quote was for £1,214 but it wasn't until this year that my family said you're paying much too much."

Cheaper quotes

In the end, Mary says she was able to get comparable, alternative home insurance from her bank for £236. She felt the discrepancy between the two quotes was unjustifiable: "You think of Saga looking after the over-60s. I couldn't believe they would treat elderly pensioners like that."

People whose parents are insured by Saga have also contacted Money Box to say how angry they have been at the size of some of the premiums.

Trish's mother is in her 90s, and Trish estimates she has had her home insurance with Saga for more than 20 years.

Last week she looked at her mother's renewal premium, and was shocked at what she saw: "We discovered she was paying over £900 a year on a three-bedroom semi in Bradford when we found competitive quotes were coming in around £200-£250."

Alan also contacted Money Box about his mother, who is also in her 90s, after he found a Saga quote on price comparison site which was less than half the renewal premium his mother had received.

Premiums defended

Alan and his mother wrote to Saga to complain.

Saga wrote back to say it had investigated and found the premiums were correct, and the rises over the years were "within expected increase boundaries."

Roger Ramsden, chief executive of Saga Services, defended his firm's premiums for long-standing customers: "The success of Saga absolutely rests on the confidence customers have in Saga. We offer great value for money, the right prices for our insurances, prices for home insurance customers last year went down in one in five cases.

"We operate in an intensively competitive market where you will see differences between prices at new business compared to prices received after that. We always look at pricing and will continue to do so."

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, says Saga needs to make significant changes to its pricing for customers who reinsure year after year.

"Saga is a brand name associated with older people, and people feel it can be trusted, but they're taking advantage. They should relook at all their prices, apologise to those people who've got these enormous premiums and cut their prices. It's ridiculous, loyalty should pay."

Penny Mordaunt, Conservative MP for Portsmouth North and chair of the Parliamentary All Party Group on Older People, says firms like Saga must strive harder to offer competitive quotes to all its customers.

"All companies have a particular group of duty of care towards those sorts of people, and especially those who have a brand which is more likely to be trusted by these people. I'm contacting members of the all party group to see what we can do to raise this issue in parliament."

Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12:00 GMT on BBC Radio 4 and repeated on Sundays at 21:00 GMT.

You can listen again via the BBC iPlayer or by downloading Money Box podcast.

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