One penalty point enough to bar drivers from Tesco insurance
Published 28/08/2010 | 05:00
TESCO is refusing to insure motorists with just one penalty point incurred for committing a minor road traffic offence.
The insurance arm of the supermarket giant, which claims to be committed to cutting the cost of motoring, admitted last night that drivers penalised for making an illegal right-hand turn would not be given cover.
It insisted that it would not provide insurance for anyone getting points for failing to obey mandatory traffic signs.
Some 18,600 motorists who have incurred one point on their licences for these offences will not be able to secure car insurance from the company.
The admission came after the Irish Independent learned that a 66-year-old male driver with 49 years' experience, no previous convictions and just one point on his licence for taking an illegal right-hand turn, was refused insurance this week.
"Most insurance companies say that four points or more is a problem; this is the first time I've ever heard of it," he said.
"I'm 66 years old and I've been driving since I was 17 and I've never been convicted of anything. I was bowled over that one point was an issue.
"The girl I was dealing with was extremely surprised herself and I was told it was the sole reason for refusal.
"I'm concerned because if you're refused cover you have to disclose it, which means you could have problems with other companies."
There are four penalty point offences relating to road signs. Failure to obey keep right/left signs, mandatory traffic signs, 'No Entry' traffic signs or prohibitory traffic signs all carry a one-point penalty.
Tesco last night admitted that it operated a strict policy, and would refuse cover.
"We base every case on its merits," a spokesman said. "It's not based solely on the number of points a customer has. We do have a criteria where, if customers fail to adhere to certain road issues, it may prevent them from getting cover. Failure to obey mandatory traffic signs is one."
The Consumers' Association of Ireland said Tesco should be forced to advertise this fact so motorists would not waste their time seeking cover.
"Clearly, Tesco is looking for safe options to insure; they're cutting their risk," spokesman Michael Kilcoyne said. "It's easy to say you've cheap car insurance if your risks are down. They should really be made advertise that.
"If they're offering insurance, they should be saying we will offer insurance to anyone with no penalty points.
"They should be disclosing that, rather than wasting consumers' time. That kind of policy discourages consumers from being honest. I don't think it's fair, or that they should be allowed to offer that."
Tesco's stance is in sharp contrast to Aviva, which gives discounts to drivers with points but otherwise 'clean' driving licences.
"We provide discounts of up to 20pc for drivers with no penalty points," a spokesman said. "If you've one, and there's no other issues, you get a 10pc discount."
Other insurers said they would not refuse cover for just one point while RSA Insurance, which underwrites Tesco, said failing to obey signs would 'raise concerns' but would not lead to cover being refused.
"That . . . could potentially lead to no quote but . . . in the main we would delve deeper than that," said a spokesman.
The Irish Insurance Federation, which represents insurers, said most firms would only refuse to quote a driver who had four or more points.