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Payment Protection Insurance: Is It Just A Scam?

Aug 17, 2007
Payment protection insurance (PPI) has taken a bashing recently. PPI is a type of insurance designed to protect repayments on financial products if borrowers find that they are in financial difficulty.

PPI has been examined by the Financial Services Authority, criticised by Which? and is now under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading. Most of these organisations are concerned about protecting consumers' rights. They are worried about:

whether consumers are sufficiently well informed at point of sale to make decisions about whether to have PPI
the wide variation in the cost of PPI policies
the huge profits made by lenders offering PPI because of the relatively few claims made by borrowers
and the lack of PPI providers who are not linked to banks or other lenders.

Given these concerns, it's a good time to find out more about whether PPI is really the right choice for borrowers.

Why Have PPI?

It's difficult for borrowers to know how their financial circumstances are going to change. When they are taking out a mortgage, loan, credit card, store card or other financial product, the sales person often offers PPI. The reasons why it might be a good idea are:

if someone becomes unemployed or is made redundant
if a long term illness prevents someone from working
if someone is injured and is unable to work

All of these circumstances mean that borrowers might not be able to meet the repayments on the mortgage, loan, credit card or store card. This could result in arrears, defaults, County Court Judgements (CCJs) and, depending on the type of loan product, the loss of their home. Payment protection insurance is designed to make sure that repayments are met, avoiding this sticky financial situation.

Inside PPI

PPI is available to most people aged 18 to 65 who are employed for at least 16 hours a week or have been self-employed for a long period. Once borrowers have signed up for the insurance, they have to wait a certain period before making a claim. This is usually 60 to 120 days. Once they do make a claim and have it accepted, their payments can be covered for a period of 12 months or more, depending on the policy.

One key thing that borrowers should be aware of is that the sellers of some financial products add the cost of the PPI policy to the credit being offered. This means that borrowers can end up paying interest on the insurance policy. This is one of the many reasons that PPI selling has been criticised. Borrowers should also look into the cost of the insurance, as this varies widely.

Beyond PPI

Many borrowers do not realise that they do not have to take out PPI at the time of buying a financial product and the people who are selling PPI often do not make this clear. There are some stand alone PPI providers who may provide a better choice. Borrowers who repay loans from earnings should also consider an income protection policy, which will protect most of their income rather than individual financial products.
About the Author
Joe Kenny writes for the Credit Card Guide, offering views on credit cards in the UK, visit them today for some great 0% balance transfer offers and start clearing credit card debt today.
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