There have been a lot of developments in the car insurance industry over the last decade. One major influence has been computerisation of rourine tasks, plus the growth of the Internet. Together they have made a number of insurance products economically viable, whereas they would once have been completely uneconomic. Consider, for instance, short term car insurance; it is now possible to buy cover for a car for as little as a single day. Only a few years ago you'd have had to have talked to a broker, he or she was willing to do so, would have had to contact a load of insurance companies, most of which would turn the proposal down flat, and then if - and the word is 'if' - a willing insurer could be found the premium would have been so high so as to make the whole exercise a complete waste of time. Now it's only necessary to go online to a site such as carinsurancefor1day.co.uk or moneysupermarket.com, get a quote which takes seconds, and buy immediately using a credit or debit card.
OK, the premium is still expensive compared to the equivalent cover under a yearly policy but it's nothing like as high as it would have been in the old days.
The Internet has also ushered in the rise of the price comparison sites. whereas a broker would compare perhaps half a dozen or so insurance providers for a prospective client, motorists nowadays can get quotes from anything up to a hundred or so insurers from the comfort of their own armchairs. We now even have price comparison services for niche markets, such as over-50s specialists www.overfiftycarinsurance.co.uk
Another way the Internet has affected car insurance concerns privacy - or rather the lack of it. Insurers know far more about us than we think, and they share a lot of this information too. When, for instance, you apply for a policy from one of the big stores the IT people there are able to look at the sort of products you buy and calculate a fair bit about your lifestyle. Do you buy lots of alcohol? They may increase your premium because of that. Do you go into their stores late at night, or very early in the morning? Clearly you're on the road during the more dangerous hours between 11.00pm and 6.00am and that could make you a bigger risk. Do you buy mainly convenience foods? Then you might be socialising a lot which isn't a good thing from a car insurance point of view. Add to this the personal information that people make freely available on sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the insurers have a huge amount of data available to base individual premium quotations on.
Should we be concerned about this erosion of privacy? The government certainly thinks so. Whether anything can be done about this in the face of such destroyers of privacy as Google and Facebook remains to be seen.