Insurance policy documents can require university-level reading abilities, with industry experts struggling to cut through the jargon, an investigation suggests.
Consumer group Which? used readability software to examine the length of words and sentences in 40 policy documents from 10 major car, home, pet and travel insurers to estimate how well-educated a reader needs to be to understand them.
It said the average document was more challenging to read than Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time and Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment, suggesting this could cause problems for 43% of working adults with a reading ability of GCSE grade C or below.
In a separate snapshot investigation, Which? found a retired insurance professional, civil servants and software engineers were unable to answer all questions about two policy documents correctly.
It asked 24 people to read home and travel policy documents from six insurers and answer a series of questions such as how to make a claim and report a change in circumstances.
On average, participants answered five out of 16 questions incorrectly when reviewing travel insurance documents.
Questions concerning when to report changes to a health condition were the toughest to answer, and participants failed this question two thirds of the time.
Which? Money editor Ceri Stanaway warned that unclear insurance policies can have devastating consequences for customers, who could see their cover invalidated due to a misunderstanding.
She said insurance providers should cut out the jargon and make their policy documents easy for customers to get to grips with.