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Car insurance policy or literary magnum opus?

By raccars Published

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It's hardly ground-breaking news that car insurance policies are a pretty dry, uninspiring read, verbose and packed with clumsy terminology. However, Fairer Finance has recently conducted an investigation into policy wording, revealing that the average policy document is almost 18,000 words long...

The worst offender weighed in at 37,674 words - that's longer than the classic George Orwell tome, 'Animal Farm,' and only a few words shorter than 'Heart of Darkness,' by Joseph Conrad. Policies of 32,860 words and 32,631 were also uncovered, both of which beat the word count in the John Steinbeck novel, 'Of Mice and Men.' The shortest policy found among the 40 insurers studied was 6,901 words, showing that conciseness can be done.

It is estimated that the average word count of 17,896 would take most people more than an hour to read. The average adult reading speed is 250 words per minute, at which rate, the 37,674 word policy document will take up two and a half hours of your time. It would be surprising to find a single customer who has ploughed through and fully digested the whole thing.

The news is another blow to an insurance industry whose reputation is already reeling under criticism of high premiums and payout delays.

Fairer Finance is an independent organisation that evaluates the prices and service offered by other companies, to help customers assess what sort of value for money they're getting for their insurance policies, banking products and any other financial services. The firm is currently running a campaign to reduce the amount of needless small print on policy documents and confusing terms and conditions used by insurers and banks. The results of the study into insurance policy documents have caused outrage.

As part of its report, Fairer Finance questioned 2,000 people and claims that almost three quarters admit they fail to read all the way through insurance policy documents. Of the remaining quarter who say they do read the document, less than one in five claims to understand the whole thing. The company is suggesting that as so few people actually digest the information as it is currently presented, there is a very good argument for reducing the length of policy documents.

The Plain English Campaign, an independent organisation that rates official documents upon their legibility, is equally unimpressed, suggesting this is a deliberate tactic to cause frustration and confusion among customers.

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