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Protection war could widen to three fronts

The protection rate war, which saw 50 changes to life and critical-illness rates in 2005, looks set to continue raging throughout the coming year.

The focus has until now largely been on price but many in the industry are calling for second and third fronts to be opened to broa- den the battleground to cover service levels and product transparency.

After a year that saw Tesco axe Norwich Union and move to Direct Line, one wonders who will be next in the firing line as greater emphasis is placed on price with these direct channels.

On the product front, critical-illness insurance will remain in the news with the Association of British Insurers’ consultation on CI due to be completed in the New Year with a new statement of best practice to follow.

Some product providers believe that the ABI will aim to minimise the impact on providers by designing a timetable for any revis- ions that leaves 2006 free of change to give the industry some breathing space.

Pension term assurance is another product line which will be under inspection, with A-Day bringing potential changes to the product design or at least the name of the product. Some are suggesting life cover with premium tax relief, others put forward term assurance with tax relief. Either way, an upswing in transfer business is likely to ensue after April 6. Whether this is the best option for most clients remains open to question. What it should do, however, is to put protection products more prominently on people’s radar and work towards closing the protection gap.

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