Does your insurance company know who is at the wheel?
Car insurance firms are rejecting around a thousand claims a year because they say parents and their children are lying in an effort to cut policy costs,
according to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
"Fronting" happens when a young person buys and registers a car in their own
name, but the insurer is falsely told that a parent is the main driver.
It can save people hundreds of pounds on their premiums, but the consequences of being caught out can be dire.
We asked for your comments - a selection of which are below - this debate is now closed.
In most of the rest of Europe the car is insured and not the driver. Anyone can drive the insured car and the policy earns discounts if no claims are made. These premiums appear to be generally cheaper than in the UK even though potentially the risk is far greater. Why is it that in the UK when insurance companies know the details of every single driver (3 or less in a typical family) we still have to pay more than our European friends? Another case of rip off Britain?
I am the mother of four children, all of whom learned as named drivers on our insurance. As soon as they passed their tests they wanted to have a car. Two saved up to buy cars, then had to work harder still to pay over £1000 each for third party, fire and theft insurance. One had an accident which was his fault, and had to accept that the premium would go up. He was working, and managed to repair the car and pay the added cost of the insurance. That was almost five years ago, and since then he has had no accidents, his premium has come down, and he has four years' no claims bonus. His insurance is now much closer to mine, and I've been driving for over 40 years. He learned the hard way - but he had a friend who was "fronted" by his family and had to pay costs for an accident he caused and for which the insurance would not pay.
As a parent of three children which have yet to learn to drive, I dread that they will all be forking out huge sums of money to insure their vehicles. I wouldn't dream of condoning such an act, but isn't this the catch 22 situation - will they pay at all? Too many cars are driven around our roads already that aren't insured at all. This pushes up the price more for those that follow the rules. Welcome to the topsy-turvy shores of the UK.
It's not always easy to determine who the main driver of a car is. My wife and I own 2 cars and use whichever is appropriate for the task at hand. At the moment I'm working in Birmingham and only home at weekends, so I leave my wife the car which actually has room for everybody (the 4-door, 5-seat, family saloon) which she drives pretty much every day during the week but only on short journeys while I commute in the smaller, more economical, 2-seater convertible. I'm only driving "the big cars" at weekends but for longer trips and put more miles on the car over the course of a year than my wife does. Even after taking advice from my insurance company I wasn't entirely sure which of us was "the main driver" but I eventually plumped for going by mileage, making me the "main driver" of both cars. Let's just hope I got it right as I've got no intention to defraud anyone and I'm not sure I'm even saving money so I'll be a bit cross if the insurance company try to wriggle out of a claim. As for young drivers, I think I actually quite like the idea of my children being named drivers on a policy in my (or my wife's) name as that will give me a cast-iron justification for regulating when, where, and how much they drive in the first year or two!
The insurance companies have only themselves to blame. The premium charged should reflect the risk of a claim from ANY of the named drivers, not just the "main" driver. I know that some insurance companies do just that, and it's time the rest followed suit instead of criminalising young drivers, who are simply trying to pay as low a premium as possible - which is what we all do when we shop around for the best quote. Come on, insurance companies, you don't need a sledgehammer for this particular nut, just some common sense!
I have worked in the insurance industry for 20 years and spent some of my earlier years pricing motor insurance for a UK company. The relative risk on a young driver is huge compared to someone in the 40-55 age range, not only in the frequency of accidents but also in the average cost of a claim due to there being more bodily injury claims coming from accidents caused by young drivers. I agree it is very hard for young drivers to get affordable insurance but that just reflects the risk insurance companies assume when insuring a young driver. If an insurance company was to reduce young drivers' rates it would need to increase rates elsewhere and that leads to what is known as anti-selection and the insurer will lose money since it will end up insuring more young drivers at subsidised (loss making) rates but lose the lower risk older drivers to other companies since their premiums are higher than their competitors. People seem to think it's quite alright to screw over insurance companies by over-inflating claims or misrepresenting the facts when applying for insurance but quickly complain when they are called on it and don't get paid out.
I am a driver under 25, but not a boy racer. I have built up 5 years no claims on my own insurance and my premiums have dropped in this time from £1500 to £220. Drive well and save money! I'm all for lower premiums and higher excesses though. On another note an easy way to get round the insuring of modified vehicles as 'no modifications', is to attach a series of photographs of the insured vehicle (inside and out) to the policy. Experienced loss adjusters will be able to tell if your damaged car resembles the one in the picture, and insurance companies can have 14 days (for example) to cancel the insurance if the pictures submitted do not resemble what you tell them.
What about the large number of cars that have been modified - large bore exhausts, different size and type of wheels, lowered suspension and many more? I bet all these owners/drivers have not notified their insurance company. What about the unfortunate and unsuspecting motorist who is involved in an incident with one of these? I think that the motor insurance industry needs a complete overhaul with young drivers restricted to engines of 1.2L and no more. Also why penalise senior drivers for all those who are uninsured? I thought that sophisticated cameras and surveillance equipment were installed to combat this. As usual the good guy gets tanned for everyone else.
We are forgetting the fundamental purpose of insurance - spreading the risk by sharing the risk. It's not a horse race bet as some insurance companies treat it. Insurance should be done by a co-operative. Why can't we do what happens in Australia and Canada - a fixed rate compulsory third party personal injury insurance with an approved insurer. Comprehensive insurance is extra with whoever you want. That way young drivers may stand a chance of insurance to drive. Let's face it - personalised motor transport in most the UK outside of London is obligatory.
It is not the insurers' responsibility to ensure people are not lying to them. This is a form of fraud. I think insurance companies need only promote honesty and do their level best to make people aware of how serious the repercussions can be. I am aware that insurance is very costly these days, I know it's not easy to get on the road without spending lots of hard earned money but fraud should not be adopted as common practice by people trying to save a few quid. I think this problem has scaled to a considerable size because people fail to understand that this is a serious offence and evidently for those who have had claims rejected - they haven't saved any money, quite the opposite!
I am amazed that no-one seems to have consulted an insurance broker. My son went to the local firm who have arranged our insurance for years. Although his policy was not cheap, he got good quality cover at a much lower cost than he ever expected.
If you are making declarations that you know are not true then that is fraud, there are no two ways about it. The test is easy: Would you be happy to explain what you have done to an insurance company? If the answer is no, it is fraud.
I once worked for a very large UK insurer. As far back as 10 years ago they were combating 'fronting' by asking subtle questions about the whole household. If a policy was being sought by a parent with a child added as a "named driver" and there were additional cars in the household, then the quoting system would automatically assume the new car was intended solely for the young driver and load the premium accordingly. Essentially, the company was really not interested in covering younger drivers because of the increased risk and this strategy worked on 'fronters' by pricing them into going elsewhere!
I agree with insurance companies rejecting claims on "fronted" policies. As in an earlier comment I read, policies for young drivers are higher because as inexperienced and in many cases immature drivers they do have more claims. The vehicle they are driving is a factor but what insurance companies also have to assess and cover is exactly what damage can be done with a vehicle. For example, imagine the cost of a claim if a driver, driving a group one vehicle (the lowest to insure) lost control and collided with pedestrians at a bus stop, or maybe a £120k vehicle? People need to remember this!
A N Other
I think driving instructors should make a better job of educating learners in ''all things motoring'', rather than the prevailing short cut to pass a test. Regrettably, the cheaper the driving lessons, the poorer the driving instruction and so learners don't get taught the seriousness of the insurance business. Couple this with the epidemic of dishonesty among the population in the country and the situation is diabolical. Good, honest, parents with a sense of morality and who are prepared to sacrifice much else in order to finance good driving instruction for their teenagers are happy to pay upwards of £25 per hour and thus their claims regarding collision damages are virtually non-existent. Entirely due to those drivers having been taught to be good, competent, sensible, motorists, by their instructors. And they don't have crashes and subsequent claims!
Insurance companies don't get conned unless they're greedy. No insurance company should be able to cream off all the low risk customers, for a start. For another thing, insurance premiums should not be so high that the only cars that new young drivers can afford are crappy unsafe old crates without airbags and decent brakes. Proper competition in the insurance business should fix that, with some imaginative long term plans to foster good driving. Finally the insurance companies ought to look more closely at the cost of repairs - most garages look on "insurance jobs" as manna from heaven. I should know - I used to run a body repair shop.
Whilst I shed no tears for the impoverished insurance industry ('bookies' by another name) enhanced premiums for young drivers must reflect risk. However, it is quite unnecessary to seek cover for anything other than statutory 'third-party' indemnity. It is worth noting that in at least one European country - I cannot recall which - this (statutory) cover is available through a government agency. It seems unarguably sensible as that body would also have on record the driver details without actually having to go through the form filling process. With third-party motor cover one of the few mandatory policies required by law it is no wonder it is seen as a cash cow industry.
It is also a problem when the parent "owns" the car but the young person is nevertheless the main driver. It is not made clear enough in policies that "fronting" isn't bona fide because 6 years ago our insurance representative actually encouraged us to do it. Thankfully our kids have now earned enough no claims bonus of their own with their own policies, although ludicrously my son's premium is significantly cheaper because he has his parents both as named drivers - despite the fact he would never let either of us near his precious motor! Yet his insurance company clearly see this as a reduced risk!
We need a public enquiry on this, or a Royal Commission and some proper recommendations for legislation. Fronting is dishonest, but so is insuring huge fleets of cars at below market prices, with the insurance companies claiming the money back by boosting young driver premiums. Also, a proper look at the genuine risks presented by elderly drivers, with their poor eyesight, hearing and lack of general mobility. Let's have some fair pricing and stop cheating the young and destroying their faith in society, and each other too.
Until the great insurance rip-off is sorted people will always try to reduce excessive premiums. The fairest solution is another 15 - 20p on a litre of fuel to pay for national motor insurance - that way everybody would have insurance cover not just those daft enough to pay !!
It is the fault of young drivers for being so high risk and pushing their own premiums up. I cannot believe that a couple of comments on here have said it is the fault of the companies. When youngsters start driving responsibly and having fewer accidents then the premiums will fall and less fraud will be committed.
My wife and I normally have three vehicles - all registered in our names. I have just been advised by an insurer that when my daughter of 18 (a learner named on one of the cars' policies) passes her test then she will have to insure one of these vehicles in her own name. This is despite the fact that the vehicle will not belong to her, nor will she be paying for any of its running costs.
Greg Carter, Rake
The person obtaining the insurance is at fault. The terms of insurance clearly state that it is an offence to fail to disclose material facts when obtaining insurance. Anyone with half a brain knows what "material facts" mean. They influence whether you will even be insured, what conditions are imposed and how much the insurance will be.
Chris F, Langley
It is very rich of the insurance industry to be complaining of bad practice when it is rife with bad practise itself. Hypocrites. After a recent accident that was not our fault, it was amazing to see the collusion between two companies in an attempt to pay out no money at all. Finally, months down the line we have money owed to us returned. It is very difficult to obtain justice for individuals as the number one priority is profits.
The insurance companies are complicit in the fraud. They know full well what is going on. They are delighted to take the premiums knowing that if there is a claim they won't have to pay.
Philip Martin, Northampton
It does not make sense to "front" as paying the premium becomes money down the drain if the insurance company does not pay up. Premiums are generally just too high and should be looked at to make it easier for new drivers to insure themselves and take responsibility for their actions. Fronting only passes responsibility to the adult who is often under pressure to keep up with the Joneses.
Unfortunately this is just another example of Joe Public trying to get one over on the insurance industry. It also manifests itself with people who modify cars and do not tell their insurers, people who try to claim for their camera/camcorder/watch that was "lost" or "stolen" on holiday, people who "accidentally" spill something on their carpet to get a new one. It is a sad fact today that many claims are fraudulent and many that are not are artificially inflated. Insurance companies are not charities, and in the long run we all pay for those people who are less than honest with them.
David, Milton Keynes
Of course it is the fault of the insurance company. If they do not allow it, they risk losing custom to a competitor who does. They will happily take your money off you - then refuse to pay out when you make a claim. Who is defrauding whom then? I also disagree with the opinion that it is the under-25's who are the biggest risk. When I was 18, driving along a country lane, a middle aged driver with small kids in the car came speeding towards me, forcing me into the hedgerow and still he smashed my wing mirror. He told the insurance company it was my fault, and they believed him! Even nowadays at 36, I know I have picked up bad habits, but of the number of numpties I see driving on the road each day - very few are between 18 and 25.
Jason Sheldon, Walsall
Insurance is about trust and honesty. If everyone was honest and trustworthy there would be no need to have insurance. Each would admit their fault and pay the damages. Insurance is about how much money the insurers can make legally and get away with it. They prey on young people who know no better, so they will make all the money they can.
There's a contradiction here. Why is it cheaper for a kid to drive on a parent's policy rather than on their own policy? Surely the risk is just the same?
Graeme Pirie, Nuneaton
The kids should have their own insurance, in their own names. They will be very proud when they earn the first and the second years' no-claims. They know that if they are to blame, it will cost more to drive, if they continue to drive at all.
We only have ourselves to blame for this situation. The insurers fail to provide accessible insurance cover for under-25s, thus encouraging "fronting" and other scams, including not bothering to get insurance at all. The government and the DVLA fail to define, enforce or encourage higher driving standards that are fit-for-purpose for today's over-crowded roads and multi-lane motorways. I would also argue that older folks should be targeted with insurance pricing that reflects their true risk assessment rather than being rewarded with protected no-claims and big discounts for sometimes questionable driving standards. Therefore, perhaps the simplified approach would be to 1) raise the driving test standard, including additional certification for dual-carriageway/motorway driving, 2) incentivise young drivers with fixed mileage/pay-as-you-go schemes for sensible vehicle choices, 3) introduce driving test re-sits every 10 years for all drivers. This way, we are all subject to the same scrutiny.
Richard Bowles, Kettering, Northamptonshire
Being on my dad's insurance a few years back knocked £1000 off the yearly premium, which was still more than the value of the car. I know it's the third party liability that is being covered but my excess was also around £500-£600 so my car wasn't even covered anyway! Cost is forcing young drivers to do this. My parents could not afford to pay my insurance and I wouldn't expect them to. To say insurers make the same amount of money on all drivers is absolute rubbish. The UK insurance industry is very expensive and you never get paid what you truly deserve when you claim. They try and keep every last penny. Time the FSA cleaned up the whole industry.
Insurance is about trust and honesty on both sides of a contract. I don't accept that any parent fronting their child is not aware of what they are doing and why. So, I say well done to the insurance companies who have the courage to hold these people to account. Fraud is fraud however you dress it up.
I do not see any corporate insurers going bust as a result of receiving so many lower premiums, so the answer must be to lower premiums for younger drivers. This will stop so called "fronting". The rules on this need to have absolute clarity. It is a cheek for the insurers to say this is "fraud". The public needs to be shielded from being bullied by fat profit making corporations.
Frank Clare, Rochester
Start cracking down on uninsured drivers. And why not have a bonus for young/recently passed drivers who keep their licence clean and have no accidents for the two years after passing their test?
I run three cars for my wife and children. I own all three. Insurance has been a nightmare. Some companies require the policy to be in the name of the registered keeper and the insurance in the name of the "main driver". All insurance companies want to know the "main driver", but it does not appear on the insurance schedule or certificate for confirmation of details. Recently I had to renew insurance for one car. The drivers would be; me instructing my youngest son, my youngest son for learning, my eldest son for occasional use while selling one car and buying a new one, my wife on odd occasions and my daughter during holidays. The insurance company wanted to know the "main driver" (the person who would most use the car for the duration of the insurance cover). An answer of "I do not know" is unacceptable and I could only get insurance on nominating one. Forecasting the future at risk of invalidating the insurance is obviously very concerning. I tried other companies to be met with the same question. There appears to be little interest or sympathy in the complexities of children, who are in full time education and still sharing a car within the family. There is not available a 'fleet' insurance that would cover five people in three cars either.
I fail to see how the Insurance companies are to blame. Just because these forms give you the opportunity to lie doesn't mean you should. People should be more honest instead of trying to save money.
So it's the insurance companies' fault for letting themselves be defrauded? Everyone who signs a proposal says the details are true. If they're not, the policy isn't valid. That's pretty simple, isn't it? Insurance for under-25s isn't expensive because the insurance companies are mean. It's because they are a very, very big risk. In Leicester we've had a spate of tragic road deaths recently, mostly under 25s. They think they're better drivers than the old codgers, whereas actually they haven't any idea of how dangerous a car in careless hands can be.
It should be down to the insurance companies to check just how many cars the applicant is claiming to be the main driver of. We haven't all got David Beckham's collections, and it is unlikely that we would be the main driver of more than one car. But until it affects their pockets they don't care do they? While they accept policy set ups like this, it's just money for old rope to them. They reap in the cash but then refuse to pay out. Win, win. Perhaps more regulations should be put on them instead of us for a change?
As an actuary for a number of large insurance firms as well as a mathematical modeller for government agencies, I can safely say that fronting is a crime that affects all drivers financially. When you insure thousands of cars, fleets of vehicles, and have to make the process easy (or lose business) it is impossible to check all cars for modifications. So Neale, Southampton needs a reality check. Since insurance companies rely on customer statistics to set prices, people who are in a similar age group to the person who is fronting are the ones who are charged more as a group to recoup losses. Fact. If parents did not front, the entire age group would pay less and honest people would save more. As far as insurance companies being greedy - what an egoistic and mundane argument. Look at the statistics over the long haul to see how much people lie on their insurance. Unfortunately insurance companies do not have a face, so people do not feel bad when lying or stealing from them. In the end, all of us pay more because of a few bad apples. Lies, damned lies, and statistics? No, statistics (when interpreted properly) do not lie, but people do.
Clearly fronting is wrong, but so are most of the insurance companies when they refuse to give no claims accruals to genuine named drivers even though they have had "no claims". That is tantamount to fraud. The companies are often as bad as the bad customer such as cases in which a deer jumps over a hedge onto your car and they will say it is "your fault".
I originally put my daughter on my insurance as an additional driver when she took the car - registered in my name - to university in Nottingham. I worried this could be a problem if a claim were to be made so declared me as the owner, with her as the main driver with the car mainly to be in Nottingham. To my surprise, the premium fell. I have now been told that from renewal next year she will have to hold the insurance in her own name as the insurers have changed their policy. Fronting only happens because insurance is too high for new drivers - the first year's insurance should be a reasonable premium and then rocket if the young/inexperienced driver claims. Insurer's premiums prohibit young drivers from holding insurance in their own names which leads to fronting or, worse still, no insurance.
Insurance policies don't suit real family situations. We have one son - aged 21 - who has his own car insurance. Until last year I insured his car in my name though I did drive the car too. He kept his on the mainland in Southampton and I used it anytime I wanted to nip across the Solent without having to take my own car. Now we would like a family policy so that all three of us can drive any one of our 3 cars (one owned by each person). It would however be too expensive to have a 21 year old on our 2 cars even though he can only be driving one car at any one time. I believe this kind of policy is common in the US.
Sue, Isle of Wight
Like everything else to do with the UK, it is all a big rip-off. Yes we know we all have to be insured for driving, but does it have to be that all young drivers - who have passed a test to drive - should be hammered on insurance that costs more than the car they drive? If need be, increase the "excess charge", then the driver knows that if they cause damage of any kind, it will hit them more, and hopefully it will make them more careful on the road. When my son passed his test and went to get insured the insurers wanted nearly £2,000 - what a joke. So I too, at the time, put him on my policy. Give them a chance. Increase the excess charge to deter, if need be.
Young drivers should pay the appropriate rate for car insurance which is based on their poor accident record. You featured a young student complaining about the price of insurance but I do not see why students - especially those in cities - need a car.
Richard Wilson, Bicester
Higher risk = higher premiums. If you cannot afford the insurance, you cannot afford the car. Car ownership is not a "right". I recall the injustice I felt when I was under 25, but looking back now, I realise that I took significantly more risks. Clearly there are safe young drivers, but they should be looking at their peers for the blame.
My son is 17. He is insured on my policy as a named driver. The cost is £800. They have made it quite clear he can only use the car two to three times a week. We stick to the rules.
I also would never condone "fronting". However your estimates of insurance for young and first time drivers are somewhat conservative. When our son acquired his first car at the age of 17, prices for a policy of his own were between two and four thousand pounds - totally out of reach for a young man in his first job. How can youngsters possibly afford this? His car is essential for his work - what other options are there?
Clare Philipson, Doncaster
When I was a student, my car was left at home during term-time: I had nowhere to keep it at university. My dad would use the car whenever I was away from home, and I would use it whenever I was back. When we rang round, a couple of companies said "Oh yes, we can put both of you as main drivers - we have a policy for exactly this situation." On top of that, we were told we could add my mother as a named driver, even though she already had a policy of her own. Then the car became a "family car" and escaped the "boy-racer" insurance band. At the time, a policy of over £1000 dropped to about £650. Sadly, there was no way of doing this using their online form, and no mention of this sort of thing on their website. Obviously, this situation will not fit everyone, but there are big discounts available without "fronting".
James Coupe, London
Neale - I do not know how you can credibly attach blame to insurers for "not enough checks ... at the time of proposal". What more do you think insurers can do - send an inspector out to interview each applicant and inspect their vehicle? Insurers actively discourage the practice as it distorts the underwriting process. Furthermore, at the time of quotation every insurer warns the proposer of the importance of giving truthful answers and of the consequences of misrepresenting the circumstances. If the public wishes to ignore these clear warnings, then they get what they deserve - a void policy - when it comes to claim time. The blame lies with irresponsible parents and the hard-core of young drivers who are too immature to handle the responsibility that comes with driving, who push up premiums for all younger drivers.
I am 20, have a Peugeot 107 - which falls into the lowest possible insurance bracket - and have never made a claim or committed a motoring offence. So why am I being quoted £1500 plus from most insurance companies? The answer is simply "cash cow". If insurance companies did not discriminate against younger drivers, "fronting" would not occur.
Insurance prices are high because claims are high. If drivers want lower insurance costs they should support steps to improve driving standards, particularly amongst the troublesome under-25s. These include raising the legal driving age to 18 and mandatory testing of motorway driving skills. If you want to keep paying for the status quo then do nothing.
I have a 17 year old son. I tried to get his car insured through my car insurance, as all his friends' parents have done. When I contacted my insurer by phone they informed me that I was unable to insure him, told me of the consequences, and advised me to buy him car insurance of his own. This I did.
Jennifer Costello, Bristol
Motor insurance should be cheaper if all vehicle owners paid it. It is time there was a serious clampdown on driving without insurance.
Steve Dobbs, Rothwell, Leeds
As a 19 year old student in 1967, my father bought me a car to use at college, 250 miles away from home. He was told by his broker that I had to have my own insurance, as when I was away at college he had no access to my car. Why the change now?
Muriel O'Brian, Seahouses
Motor insurance premiums are high for young drivers because they are riskier. They could have lower premiums, but only if everyone else is willing to subsidise the cost of their accidents. Insurers do not make more money from young drivers than they do other drivers. I also do not see why the onus should be on the insurer to tell people all the ways that they should not be committing fraud. The effect of fraud is always made clear to a customer and I am sure most people are aware that if they commit fraud, they can expect to have their claim rejected if that fraud is found out. Do you think insurers should also warn customers to not exaggerate their claims, or stage accidents - both of which are more common forms of fraud than "fronting"?
Michael Dod, Ipswich
Insurance companies, 99% of the time, rip-off young drivers. They charge too much money. Where are young people to get the money unless they "front"? It is high time the insurance companies bring their charges down.
I am a driving instructor in Southampton and from questions I ask my pupils who have their own cars, all of them replied that they are on mum's insurance but mum does not drive the car at all. More importantly mum does not know that her car now has a stainless steel exhaust, Lexus back lights and alloy wheels. The blame for this lies with the insurance companies and their greed - not enough checks are made at the time of proposal. On most forms there is a box where you can put in any modifications made to a vehicle, but this gets left empty or ticked "no". I have a pupil at the moment who has a car insured in his mum's name. It has been heavily modified. I asked if he had informed the insurance company of the modifications and he asked me if I was stupid! Since any modification effectively invalidates an insurance policy, it needs to go onto the insurance certificate. The police then pull over any modified vehicle and ask the driver to produce the insurance certificate. A trip to the station and presto, the driver is not insured. This is a real problem. Thanks for highlighting it.
I would never condone "fronting" but it is perhaps understandable when car insurance for a 17 or 18 year old is usually in the thousands. It is about time insurers gave young drivers a chance by perhaps offering, say, a 50% refund if there are no claims in the first year. This would surely encourage more careful driving.
Dave Neath, Bury, Lancs
I insured one of my sons for two years and had no problems. I am about to insure my other son on my car. I believe it is the insurers' fault, because some of them are now giving no-claims discount to second named drivers, so people will do this and insure the younger driver so they will start to get a no-claims discount.
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