Boycott car insurance firms that discriminate


Car insurance companies which charge higher premiums for non-English names should face a boycott and be probed by the authorities.

A newspaper investigation earlier this week found that people with foreign-sounding names like Mohammed where quoted up to £1,000 more for car cover than English names like John.

Admiral, who came off worst, flatly denied they were discriminating and claimed the news story did not compare “like with like”. They did this as several members of the public tweeted the company with screenshots showing up to £800 difference in quotes between names like Mr Khan and Mr Smith using the same address and car details.

It is likely that some of those companies link people’s names to risk. For example, if more people called Samir or Mohammed are caught driving without insurance then law-abiding Samir’s and Mohammed’s are asked to pay the price for their name-sakes misdemeanours. It is clearly unfair to pay extra for something that isn't your responsibility.

The insurance firms claimed they don’t have racist algorithms, and offered no explanation for the different quotes.

The gap between corporate denials and evidence of different quotes found by members of the public show that the insurance industry cannot be trusted to put its own house in order.

If they charge us more we should not give them our business. Until there is an independent investigation and car insurance firms clean up their act then Black communities should take our custom elsewhere.

It is unacceptable for businesses like Admiral, M&S and Bell to be quoting customers with non-English names more for the same product when all other factors are the same. If businesses cannot see this they are perpetrating unequal racial outcomes.

ABI, the body that represents the insurance industry, strongly denied similar accusations two years ago, calling the claims “ethnicity slurs.” James Dalton, Director of General Insurance at the ABI, said at the time: “Car insurers have never, and will never, set prices based on ethnicity.”

How algorithms work is the insurance industry’s dirty secret. Often the prices charged to customers have little relation to actual risk.

A graduate called Ade is less likely to commit crime that a career criminal called John. Linking ‘ethnic’ names to crime risk, even by ‘colourblind’ algorithms is racially discriminatory and completely unacceptable in modern, multicultural Britain.

There should be an independent investigation into this by the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Treasury Select Committee, and the Financial Inclusion Commission. Only then can we have confidence that the problem is solved.

The problem is not new. A report by the Runnymede Trust ten years ago highlighted racial discrepancies in credit ratings and insurance quotes.

Lester Holloway