Go compare

caitlin

I don't often get the chance to write about lovely Norn Iron (say Northern Ireland in the accent if you don't get it), the place where I was born, grew up, and will very soon be heading back to for a typically hectic Christmas, therefore when I see an opportunity, I run with it.

And so this week, I invite you all to sympathise with my countrymen and women, who are paying 11% more for their car insurance than people in the rest of the UK, according to figures from the Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT claims it has evidence that suggests there are higher personal injury compensation levels and higher legal costs associated with claims in Northern Ireland, as well as more frequent accidents, which helps to explain this expensive state of affairs, but a more interesting piece of information is the fact that fewer people shop around for their car insurance in NI than in the rest of the UK.

According to the OFT, 73% of consumers in Great Britain will spend time trying to find the best deal for their motor insurance, whereas only 55% of consumers in NI will do the same.

This does not make any sense. It isn't very hard to shop around these days, and it's not as if people aren't aware that motor insurance premiums in the province can be significantly higher than elsewhere - the topic has been widely covered in the regional press.

So why aren't people doing more to ensure they get a better deal? The government could make an effort to raise awareness of the benefits of comparing quotes. Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim, has placed the ball in the court of the insurance companies - in November, he said they must be more "robust" in dealing with personal injury claims. While this is certainly true, and will help to curb the rise of motor premiums, consumers themselves have to take more responsibility.

They have the power to create competition, and to drive prices down, all they have to do is use it.

It will be interesting to see how things develop, with these figures being widely published - now that people know where they're going wrong, they will have to do something about it.

Otherwise, it's going to be even more embarrassing telling insurance bods where I come from.

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