Submitted by Jeff Prestridge for The Mail on Sunday June 3, 2023 9:52 PM, updated June 3 2023 9:52 PM
Discrimination against older people is widespread, especially in financial matters. Most people pay more for home and car insurance as they age – while many older people find it increasingly difficult to access banking as bank branches close (63 more were announced by Lloyds and Barclays in recent days) and their right to shop goods until to pay 30:00, lose cash is restricted.
Discrimination is also spreading in other areas of the life of older people. For example, campaign group Silver Voices is “rather outraged” by Marks & Spencer’s decision to convert a minority of its in-store cafes into fully automated operations — depriving customers of their right to human service.
But it’s Saga’s decision to discriminate against some of its most dedicated customers that remains most hidden. This is because Saga markets itself by offering the over-50s great deals on everything from cruises to insurance. Saga wrote to customers who were offered the option of a lifetime subscription to their popular Saga Magazine in the early 1990s, a monthly publication costing between £70 and £90 – a bargain considering it now retails for £5 £.95 is available.
They have been told that if they wish to continue receiving a printed copy of the magazine – which features former BBC breakfast presenter Louise Minchin – they must now pay for it on the front page. The only way to continue getting the magazine for free is through Saga’s app. Unsurprisingly, some lifetime subscribers have accused the company of breaching its contract. One told me: “It is unacceptable to be told that we can only continue to receive a hard copy if we make an annual payment of £29.95.”
Baroness Altmann, an advocate for older people and former CEO of Saga, says she is surprised by the company’s move, which she describes as “digital discrimination”. Among older people in society, less than half use the internet or own a smartphone.
She also says it goes against the company’s reputation as an ally for older people.
Saga says the move, which the company did not take lightly, was due to increased printing and postage costs. A statement to me last week said “I’m sorry” if subscribers were disappointed.
Given that most of the affected subscribers are now in their late 70s or 80s, taking on the financial impact would certainly have been a more sensitive approach. After all, a good reputation is hard to earn and easy to lose.
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Insurance premiums are still rising — and there’s little sign of slowing down. A few days ago, insurance adviser Consumer Intelligence said the average price of home insurance rose 6.7 per cent over the past year – the highest increase since 2018. That means the average annual bill is £162.
Of even more concern, prices would continue to rise as “insurers keep pace with inflation in the broader economy.” As auto insurance premiums also skyrocket, rising an average of 20 percent, these vital financial products will weigh on household finances more than ever. Of course, average values only tell half the story. Some readers have faced far larger increases when their policies had to be renewed. To add insult to injury, some have also been told that the deductible they have to pay when making a claim is also increasing.
Melvyn Silver’s experience is overwhelming. He was told last month his car insurance would cost £1,035 if he opted to renew on June 23 – an increase of almost £715 (223 per cent). In addition, the excess would increase from £300 to £550. Melvyn, who lives in Bournemouth, says he has not changed his car nor made any claims. He received no explanation.
Ray Chappell, from Thame in Oxfordshire, is also upset after receiving his auto insurance renewal premium with Saga (yes, Saga again). Last year he bought a three-year fixed price policy from Saga. A smart move, he thought. But insurers are slippery as eels. Although the renewal notice confirms that his premium will not be increased for the coming year, Saga has increased the deductible that is payable when making claims for accidental damage or fire and theft. He was told the increase was at the insistence of the underwriters.
“How do these companies get away with this behavior?” asks Melvyn. This is a question that many readers ask themselves. Perhaps new consumer tariffs imposed on all financial services firms by the Financial Conduct Authority could curb the outrageous behavior of the insurance industry. But I doubt putting consumers first, given the regulator’s poor record.
Join the fight against cancer on the run. Struggling: Jeff on another run
On Wednesday evening I will be trudging through glorious Battersea Park in London for the Cancer Research UK charity. I just hope the sun will shine and my legs will decide to play ball. Fingers crossed.
Along with work colleagues from the Daily Mail and General Trust, I will be taking part in a 5km run/jog/walk as part of Race For Life 2023 – a running series organized by the charity to raise money for life-saving cancer research. Now in its 30th year, Race For Life has raised over £920m for Cancer Research UK. This year, The Mail on Sunday is supporting the fundraiser, as is Standard Life, part of the Phoenix Group.
As someone who was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago, my number one weapon against the capital C was exercise (and a good urologist). So far so good, although I’m not complacent. Cancer is a malignant disease that affects one in two people at some point in their lives. It is for this reason that we need to provide Cancer Research UK with the financial arsenal it needs to help meet this challenge.
I am also running for my dear mother Helena – I call her Helen of Troy because I think she fits the description given by the Trojan priest Dares Phrygius in Greek legend (“beautiful, brilliant and charming”).
Despite the pain that comes with it, Mom fights her cancer with all her might. I’m sure you know someone like her – if you do, give them a big hug.
If you’re interested in attending a Race For Life event, visit raceforlife.org for a race near you. There are 3K and 5K races, as well as events for children. Entry costs between £10 and £20 for adults and less for children. You will receive an information pack to help you raise funds.
Anyone who would prefer to donate to charity can visit my Cancer Research UK donation page at https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/jeffs-race-for-life-110
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