Client: Direct Line
PR Team: In-house and Hill & Knowlton
Campaign: Making the Switch
Timescale: July 2001 - ongoing
Buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will ever make. As
such, it is quite easy for mortgage lenders to lock customers into a
buildings insurance policy, as part of an overall package.
Twenty-two per cent of mortgage lenders charge an administration fee if
customers decide to move buildings insurer at a later date. This fee -
typically around £25 - can act as a deterrent to those seeking
cheaper insurance. Last July mortgage lender and insurance provider
Direct Line decided to tackle the issue.
To outlaw the practice of charging customers for switching buildings
insurance provider and hence give consumers greater choice.
Strategy and Plan
Launched on 12 January, the campaign has several threads, addressing
politicians, regulators, customers and the media.
As Direct Line refunds switching fees for new customers, the firm had a
ready-made database, providing a geographical picture of charges In
November, this enabled the PR team to write to every MP, detailing how
many of their constituents were affected.
In 2002, this initiative was expanded with a report,Making the Switch,
which provided MPs with facts and figures.
Direct Line also conducted a number of face-to-face meetings with
To gain consumer support, the PR team spoke to the Consumers Association
and the National Consumer Council.
In January, Direct Line instigated a postcard campaign, asking new
customers who disagreed with switching charges to send a pre-printed
objection to their MP.
On 29 November, Croydon MP Geraint Davies, whose constituency includes
Direct Line's HQ, put down an Early Day Motion in Parliament, calling
for the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the General Insurance
Standards Council to take action.
Measurement and Evaluation
Formal evaluation of print coverage has yet to be undertaken, but the
launch featured in The Express, Mirror, Times, FT, the Independent on
Sunday and is still running in regional press.
The story did not catch the eye of TV journalists, but H&K estimates a
weekly reach of more than 19 million on radio, including Radio 4's Today
The postcard campaign is still in its infancy, but almost 70 MPs have
signed up to Davies' Early Day Motion. Under its new powers to regulate
the insurance and mortgage industries, the Financial Services Authority
has agreed to investigate the problem of switching charges.
'In light of the feedback that we've received, we're very optimistic,'
says Direct Line senior PR manager Gill Murphy. 'The campaign seems to
be catching the interest of people in terms of the unfair practices.'