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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Your pet hate? Soaring price of premiums

A pug's life: Bruce, Pauline Parsons' pug, cost him a fortune to insure

Although I’ve spent a lot of time recently dealing with a deluge of correspondence from readers hit by anti-inflationary increases in the cost of their home and auto coverage, other insurance products are also causing a stir. Nothing more than pet blanket. Insurers, say a lot, laugh.

Last week, I asked pet owners to let me know if they were experiencing steep premium increases when renewing their pet coverage. This followed my report on the skyrocketing cost of cover (24% more than last year) for Ellie, a six-year-old miniature pinscher, owned by London-based pensioner Kath Rooney.

The answer is a resounding yes’. Many believe that insurers are raising premiums, knowing full well that customers cannot switch to a competitor because coverage for existing medical conditions would not be offered. Indeed, they are trapped.

A pug's life: Bruce, Pauline Parsons' pug, cost him a fortune to insure

A pug’s life: Bruce, Pauline Parsons’ pug, cost him a fortune to insure

Laura Taylor, who lives in Cornwall and works for the National Trust as a car park traffic controller, has been diligently monitoring the cost of cover for her two cats Finnegan and Kizzy (brother and sister) over the past 12 years . The siblings are now 15 years old. Shortly after adopting them at the age of a year and a half, Finnegan broke his leg falling from a banister. Treatment at the vet resulted in Laura receiving a £500 bill. She decided it was time to insure both cats.

In the early years, Laura, 62, says renewal premium increases were “minimal”. But since 2016, the cost of annual coverage has jumped between 20 and 41%.

The upshot is that last year’s cover for Finnegan, who needs ongoing treatment, cost £810 while Kizzy’s was £650. She dreads to think what the premiums will be when coverage renews in August.

“I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place,” says Laura, who has spent her life surrounded by pets – cats, dogs, horses, donkeys and macaws. “Either I stay the course and take the premium increases on the chin, or fund the cost of any future treatment myself.”

Laura can’t shop because of their age – no insurer would accept them. Additionally, Finnegan suffers from persistent hyperthyroidism which requires daily pills and an annual blood test. A new insurer would not cover this condition.

To make matters worse, the insurer has now changed the way it calculates the deductible she must pay when claiming the cost of treatment for Finnegan’s condition. This is the greater of £99 or 20% of the annual claim value.

“I feel like my insurer has me over a barrel,” she says.

It’s a view experienced by readers like Pauline Parsons of Gloucester.

Her eight-year-old pug Bruce is costing her and husband Alan a fortune to cover – £1,826 a year, up from £1,541 last year and £456 in 2015.

She also pays a monthly fee to a veterinarian to have Bruce wormed and vaccinated. Having lost her job at the local Debenhams store when it closed in 2021, and with Alan retired, Pauline says the cost of cover has become prohibitive.

“Bruce is a lovely little guy,” she adds, “but no one told us when we bought him about the health issues that pugs are notorious for.”

So far, Bruce has received treatment for breathing problems caused by skin folds in his mouth and for eye ulcers – common health problems in pugs. He also underwent the removal of a benign tumor and surgery to prevent his eyelashes from growing inward in his eye.

When Pauline challenged her insurer over the latest renewal premium, she was told she could reduce the monthly cost by £2, but the cover would decrease. She refused.

Pauline says that if she had known in advance how much it would cost to insure Bruce as she got older, she probably wouldn’t have bought him (even though she loves him).

The only winners in pet insurance, it seems, are insurers and veterinarians. Policyholders are cheated.

Fight against scam insurers

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the Financial Conduct Authority over the past few days. Poor me, you say.

Although much of our conversation focused on the soaring costs of car and home cover, the regulator was also keen to highlight its concern about insurers not offering customers a fair price when their car has been written off. after an accident.

If you have been the victim of this reprehensible practice, please get in touch. It must be trampled from a great height. Thieves insurers.

Is it time to take advantage of Scottish Mortgage?

Investment trust analysts aren’t known for putting the proverbial “boot in.” But that’s exactly what Investec wealth managers have just done.

They stuck their Doc Martens into giant Scottish Mortgage, run by Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford, and recommended investors sell.

The £11billion fund, the country’s largest listed trust, is having a torrid time as its focus on growth stocks and unlisted companies has peeled off – in response to rising interest rates higher and a faltering global economy.

Over the past two years it has posted losses north of 30% and Investec says it could be worse if its unlisted holdings depreciate in value.

Analysts are also concerned that the trust’s heavy borrowing makes it vulnerable to a sharp stock market correction.

Scottish Mortgage, says Investec, has established itself as a ‘flagship’ investment trust and a ‘cornerstone investment’. Yet he now says the risks are “significant”.

Investors sitting on uncrystallized gains (likely if they’ve been in the fund for more than three years) should consider taking profits and revisiting the trust at a later date.

Ten prizes for beating the Parsons…

Luck of the Draw: Has anyone won more than nine prizes in a single month?

Luck of the Draw: Has anyone won more than nine prizes in a single month?

Paul and Patricia Parsons of Norwich love premium bonds. At the start of each month, they are eager to find out if they have won a tax-free prize – between £25 and £1million.

Paul says it’s the first topic of conversation when they meet friends for a drink and a chat. “Have you won this month? Invariably, a big “yes” is the answer.

This month’s draw has been good for the Parsons, as Paul, a retired mason’s merchant representative, was keen to point out to me last week. While I won nothing, the couple took home six prizes, totaling £300 – a great start to the year.

Naturally, they are delighted, although the big prize (the £1m prize) has slipped away from them. “It will come,” Paul said confidently.

Paul says the cluster of wins got him wondering about the most premium bond awards anyone (or a couple) has won in a month. Paul and Patricia have already won nine awards, while a friend has won eight in his own name.

For the record, the maximum I have won is two.

So, dear readers, have you “surpassed” the Parsons and won more than nine Premium Bond awards in a single month? If yes, please let me know.

Having spoken to happy Paul, I now hope that some of his luck has rubbed off on me.

NS&I nudge on price rate

Still on the subject of premium bonds, Peter Burrows (another enthusiast) got back in touch, asking me to push NS&I to raise the price rate again. His request is justified.

Last month, retired banker Peter asked me to urge NS&I to raise the price rate. A day later (December 13), NS&I agreed, increasing it from 2.2% per annum to 3%.

Since this welcome move, the Bank’s base rate has risen from 3% to 3.5% – and if I’m reading the runes correctly, it will rise again on February 2 to 4% after advice from the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England.

My view is that NS&I should announce a new price rate of 3.5% just ahead of next month’s base rate hike.

But I could be wrong, especially considering the torrent of money flowing into this savings product.

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