It's a question of taste

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Emmanuel KenningAccording to research from the University of Hertfordshire, a blind taste test performed by over 400 members of the public has revealed that we cannot tell the difference between cheap or expensive wine.

When given a sample of wine costing less than £5 a bottle along with one from a bottle costing up to £30 the tasters could only discern which was the more expensive 50% of the time. Which as any statistician could tell you, is exactly the same result as guessing.

Personally, I'd like to know if the tasters kept asking for more samples due to being unable to make up their minds. I have my suspicions.

"These are remarkable results," commented psychologist profession Richard Wiseman. "People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines, and so in these times of financial hardship the message is clear - the inexpensive wines we tested taste the same as their expensive counterparts."

Clearly wine and driving don't mix. But from an insurance point of view I can see some parallels.

On a national scale the biggest insurance news of the week was undoubtedly the 40% rise in the cost of motor premiums. The AA found that the average comprehensive car cover rose by this amount in 12 months to reach £892.

For young drivers in particular the prices are becoming astronomical.

The Association of British Insurers quickly came out demanding an end to referral fees, noting that excessive legal fees add 10% to every motor premium and that for every £1 paid out insurers also pay out 87p in legal costs.

But where's the link?

Easy, one word, quality.

The first story obviously contains a pin-pricking of pomposity element. But it also stacks up because people are prepared to pay for quality. Sadly my Friday night fish and chips tend to be washed down with a glass of the £5 wine. But on the few occasions that I do indulge in the more rarefied end of the spectrum - generally with something other than take-away cod for accompaniment - I want something for my money.

The second makes me more worried. I believe no consumer feels they are getting a higher quality product for their extra premiums. Probably because they aren't. No wonder it feels like the only thing the general public cares about in terms of insurance is price.

It hardly keeps me awake at night, but I can't help wondering what will happen should the commercial market ever harden?

For what little it's worth if I were a broker I'd already be hammering the message of quality to my clients and getting the kudos in the bank now.

I believe that what happens in personal lines does not exist in isolation. If you haven't done any banking and are only being judged on price, then the atmosphere in the personal market should surely tell you what your clients will think of you in the future.

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