Insurance Hike

Reporter: Marguerite McKinnon

It's the great insurance swindle.... and it's netting insurance companies millions of dollars a year.Now consumers are fighting back. Naomi Bruvels is a work-from-home-mum who runs consumer website www.simplesavings.com.au

She and 86-thousand other website members are refusing to be played for fools by insurance companies...and are instead saving themselves hundreds of dollars every year every year. "I was told that they'd had increased government taxes, there were other extra costs they had to include in and therefore they had no control what they were charging me. I disagreed and I actually shopped around and found much better prices. I went back to them and told them this and they agree to reduced my costs."

Brad Zeimer is another customer who's had enough. "I automatically go onto that insurance company's website and re-input all the information that I've got on the policy just to check to find out if they've given me the best premium they can or its been inflated and every time I've done so I've always found that it can be anywhere from $60 up to $130 more if I automatically go ahead and reinsure." After cross-checking against other companies... Brad calls his insurance company's customer service centre...where they spout the same old lines.

Here's how Insurance companies catch you out.

We asked four major insurance companies - AAMI, ALLIANZ, GIO and CGU to insure an average $27,000 Holden. Loyal customers who simply pay their renewal are stung the most: An extra 70 dollars by AAMI. And around $300 more with Allianz, GIO and CGU.Generally online quotes were around $200 cheaper...with CGU having both the most expensive AND the cheapest quotes... for exactly the same car.

We then checked Home and Contents Insurance.A 500-thousand dollar Home and 94-thousand dollar Contents quote showed big cost differences. Once again loyal customers are the biggest losers: AAMI charging an extra $200 for renewals, GIO AND CGU were in hiding tonight...refusing to confirm a figure despite repeated requests.

CGU had the most expensive cover....over 13-hundreds dollars for a phone quote...while AAMI was les than half of that offering $500 online. Insurance companies are BANKING on MOST customers to simply pay up...but as Brad has discovered, even minutes can save hundreds.

" So Brad, with House and Contents Insurance what was your initial quote this year and how much did you end up saving? When I received my annual review this year it was $770. By jumping on the internet, on the same company's website, I saved $120. That's great! It was. It was really worthwhile."

You can also save on Life Insurance, which can also cover income protection in times of sickness. "A lot of people may have taken life insurance out, say 10 years ago and their circumstances may have changed. Their children may have left home; you may decide to downside, it's important to constantly review your Life Insurance."

Gerald Brown from I-Select-dot-com-dot-a-u compares insurance policies. Unless you're in the business you may not know that Life Insurance policies have generally dropped in the past ten years...leaving many customers paying far more than they need to. And it doesn't stop there.... It seems everyone is out to get a quick buck from their loyal customers.

Banks are also notorious for slapping on extra fees and charges.... and those exorbitant penalty fees which you should be questioning. In a previous investigation, Today Tonight showed how a growing number of consumers are standing up and taking their business elsewhere... Seeking out introductory rates, haggling for a better deal with their lender, and if that fails, transferring their credit card debt to another bank or financial institution....saving thousands of dollars in fees and charges. The only sting to avoid... making sure the debt can be cleared in the low rate period.Steve Mickenbecker works at Cannex... a financial research company which compares new car insurance policies. Knowing Insurance companies aren't loyal to their customers...the rule is: review renewals.... and ask for discounts.