HOMEOWNERS were warned yesterday that insurers would not cover losses of laptops, hearing aids and smart phones -- even if they are paying higher premiums in the belief that these are covered.
Five of the nine home insurers in the market are refusing to cover such claims, a survey by the National Consumer Agency (NCA) has found.
The survey, a copy of which has been seen by the Irish Independent, has found that insurers are stating in the small print of contracts that they will not cover laptops and mobile phones.
NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald explained that thousands of homeowners opt to take out "all-risks" cover, which used to cover theft or damage to a broad range of valuable items inside and outside the home.
Insurers will cover jewellery, but the NCA found that laptops, smart phones and hearing aids were now not covered by five insurers.
Aviva, ChartisDirect, FBD, RSA and Getcover do not pay up for laptops and phones stolen or damaged outside the home.
Ms Fitzgerald said: "Don't assume that everyday items, such as phones and laptops, are covered by your policy. Very often, providers exclude them."
She advised homeowners with expensive laptops or phones to list them as "specified items" at an additional cost on their policy documents.
Irish Insurance Federation official Michael Horan denied that insurers were engaged in sharp practice in denying claims for valuable electronic equipment.
He said these goods would be covered if they were stolen from within the home.
He also admitted that a number of other items, such as china, glass and porcelain, were excluded from cover if damaged outside the home, unless they were specified on policies.
The responses the NCA received from insurers indicated that a laptop would not be covered by a policy with all-risk cover, even if stolen from inside the house.
The survey shows that households which have made claims for flood damage would not now even get a quote from most insurers.
All nine companies refused to quote. When asked for quotes excluding flood-damage, six of the nine refused to quote for a house in Limerick that had suffered flood damage in 2009.
Ms Fitzgerald added: "If you are finding it difficult to get quotes, it's worth approaching a specialist broker."
The survey found quotes for home insurance on one property ranged from €257 to €699 -- a difference of €442 or 172pc.
Reducing rebuilding costs significantly lowers premiums, the NCA found. When the rebuilding cost of a house in Co Kilkenny was reduced from €210,000 to €170,000, the premium fell by €50 on average.
"While it's very important not to underestimate rebuilding costs, consumers are advised to check the cost of rebuilding their property, particularly as these have decreased in the last few years," Ms Fitzgerald said.
A guide to rebuilding costs can be found at the Society of Chartered Surveyors website, www.scs.ie.
Meanwhile, insurance firms may face action from the Central Bank after a review of how they handle complaints found that none of the companies inspected were fully compliant with the code of protection for consumers.
The Central Bank said the review was "disappointing" and that it was considering further enforcement action.
The survey examined more than 600 complaints across 12 companies and found companies breached the code on a number of points.