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WATCHDOG body the Consumers' Association (CA) has called for greater regulation of the legal expenses insurance market in a report which reveals widespread public ignorance of the industry.
Of 2,000 people surveyed by the CA in its report, which was published last week, two thirds were unaware of the concept of legal expenses insurance and only 17 per cent had cover.
The report focuses on before-the-event insurers who are most common in the car insurance industry. It claims policies are confusing for consumers who often do not realise they are entitled to expenses insurance when they have had an accident.
It also points out that uninsured loss recovery companies, which help accident victims claim damages, are unregulated because they do not fulfil the definition of "insurer".
CA lawyer and author of the report Alison Lindley said this placed clients at risk because they had no remedy against their insurers.
The report says the government should step in and regulate all legal expenses insurance companies.
But it absolves solicitors acting for legal expenses insurers of providing a worse service than normal despite "anecdotal evidence" of "delaysS failing to reply to letters or to keep clients informed".
The Association of British Insurers (ABI), which oversees a voluntary code of practice, agreed that uninsured loss recovery companies should be regulated, but said there was no reason why its members should be affected.
ABI assistant manager Mark Standen claimed it was "ludicrous" to introduce statutory regulations when complaints against its members were "negligible".