'Pay an extra £324 for insurance or lose your cover,' reader told

  • Insurance company raises premium by 29%
  • Gives customer just 15 minutes to agree to the increase or face being uninsured
  • Helpdesk tracks down a cheaper premium saving the reader £900 a year

You might expect that slashing your annual mileage by 14,000 and moving to a much more salubrious address would help the cost of your car insurance premium to plummet. That’s certainly what Idoia Bilbao had in mind when she called her insurance company, Swinton, after moving home.

She was aghast when the customer services adviser crunched the new numbers and gave her the galling news that instead of falling, her monthly payments would rise – by 29%, or £27 a month. Idoia was already unhappy with what she felt were very hefty payments of £93 a month. Increasing them to £120 would leave her an additional £324 a year out of pocket.

She was staggered. Her 13-year-old Ford Mondeo was worth only £600, and she didn’t understand why she was seemingly being penalised, especially since moving had reduced her annual commute from 19,000 to 5000 miles.

She protested, but the customer services adviser was short-tempered and gave her an ultimatum: she had 15 minutes to decide whether to accept the new policy terms or her cover would be cancelled.

Distraught and panicking, Idoia called Helpdesk. She’d terminated her call to Swinton without making a decision and was worried that she wouldn’t be covered on her drive home from work. Surely that would be illegal? Even worse, what if she was involved in an accident? What should she do?

We assured her that it was extremely unlikely her policy would have been cancelled with immediate effect, especially with no written notification.

We then got on the phone to Swinton, which wasted no time in agreeing to contact Idoia to reassure her that she wouldn’t be left in the lurch that evening, and to explain exactly why her premium had increased.

Idoia got the call the same afternoon, and was relieved to speak to a calm, friendly and sympathetic company representative. She later received a letter with an official apology for the way she’d initially been treated.

The second adviser explained that when Idoia had changed her address she’d removed a named driver from the policy at the same time, which was a significant factor in the cost increase. She also looked into alternative policy terms to save Idoia as much as possible, and managed to reduce her monthly payments. However, Idoia would still be paying £105 a month.

She was given 14 days to make up her mind, so we advised her to see what other deals were available elsewhere. We pointed her in the direction of a few price comparison websites, and she was over the moon to find a quote for a policy costing just £30 a month. Even taking the Swinton cancellation fee into account, she’ll still save more than £900 a year.

What if this happens to you?

  • Bear in mind that a change in circumstances, such as taking a named driver off your policy, could increase premiums by up to 10%.

  • Find a cheaper deal. Gocompare.com calculates 8.8 million drivers miss out on £2 billion worth of savings by auto renewing their insurance.

We've prepared lots of useful advice, including a full guide on warranties that could help you with either a new or used car.

If you need our help, email us at helpdesk@whatcar.com with a few details and we'll be in touch.