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Equity launches campaign against insurance prejudice

9 August 2012

Charging actors and other performance professionals higher insurance premiums or refusing them insurance altogether has been called "groundless prejudice" by one actor because it is based not on data about actors' claims history but on guess work about actors' lives, Equity has discovered.

Equity members routinely pay higher car insurance premiums because the insurance industry considers them to be a high risk, but this view is based not on statistical data but what appears to be guess-work about the driving habits of actors. Members have been complaining to their union that their car insurance is unreasonably high. To try to find out why, Equity wrote to Otto Thoresen, Director General of the Association of British Insurers, earlier this year.

He wrote back confirming that actors must expect to pay higher premiums and explained: “premiums are based on a number of risk factors, among which is the occupation of the driver. Where insurers' actuarial data demonstrates an increased risk, they set premiums which reflect that risk.

“For actors, we have been told that they are much more likely to be involved in a collision than for most other occupations. This is probably due to their unusual working hours, which leads them to be driving late at night when roads are more dangerous; the need to travel long distances touring or working away from home; the potential for large claims associated with high-earning performers; and the possibility that sharing vehicles when giving colleagues a lift home can lead to expensive claims.”

Equity wrote back asking Mr Thoresen to share the “actuarial data” which demonstrates that actors are a higher insurance risk. His response was surprising.  He wrote that “no single insurer has a large enough number of actors as customers to be able to draw reliable statistical conclusions from their claims history”. He added, “there is little likelihood of any insurer being able to build long-term reliable data from the claims history of actors”, and that underwriters “have to draw conclusions about the increased risk from what they know”.

What does all this mean? Well, far from basing the insurance risk of actors on “actuarial data”, as Mr Thorensen claimed in his first letter, it now appears that underwriters base their view of actors on nothing more than vague notions of actors driving late at night and giving lifts to fellow actors. Some might call this nothing more than prejudice.

Before publishing this article Equity sent it to Mr Thoresen for his comment. He wrote: ““Insurers price risk and the premium paid reflects the risk.  Many factors are taken into consideration and occupation is one of many that insurers will consider when setting a premium. The premium actors pay reflects the fact that they are more likely to be involved in a collision than other occupations. This is reflected in their premium price.” 

Equity has been so appalled at the off-handed way the insurance industry has dealt with our enquires that we wrote to the Financial Ombudsman Service. They responded that they do not have the authority  to investigate an entire industry, but can take up the case of an individual. If you think that you have been treated particularly badly by an insurance company just because you are an actor put your complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumer/complaints.htm

Equity President  Malcolm Sinclair is backing the campaign: “At the last meeting of the Equity Council, as soon as insurance for actors was mentioned a catalogue of horror stories came out. Being charged high insurance premiums or being refused insurance altogether is something which blights actors’ lives and I am appalled that it is based not on clear data but on supposition and prejudice. This must stop and I appeal to Equity members to make their views known to the Association of British Insurers.”

Interviewed in The Stage, Equity member Branko Tomovic told how he was refused car hire because of insurance problems: “The company I spoke to didn’t even ask me what I was using the car for. Many other professions have the same schedule as an actor. Any self-employed person has to be flexible and be able to work at night or in the day.”

Actor and Equity Council member Jonathan Coy raised the issue of insurance at July’s meeting of the Council. He told The Stage: “I had to get a broker to ring round and try and find me a better deal on my home insurance. He halved the amount by finding a company that didn’t ask what my professional was. There is groundless prejudice against actors in the insurance market.”

Equity will continue to campaign to get the insurance industry to treat actors and other performance professionals fairly. Meanwhile, if you have a view on how the insurance industry treats Equity members you can put it to the Association of British Insurers at www.abi.org.uk/Contact_Us.aspx.

If you are having insurance difficulties, try Equity’s insurance broker First Act on 020 8686 5050.

 

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