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Law Society refuses to back down in insurer advertisement row

[1]

Fluck: important ongoing message to consumers

The Law Society has stepped up the war of words with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) over its personal injury advertising campaign.

ABI director general Otto Thoresen wrote [2] to Law Society president Nick Fluck earlier this week, calling for its £300,000 ‘Don’t get mugged by an insurer – use a solicitor’ campaign to be pulled.

Mr Thoresen labelled the high-profile campaign a “gross error of judgment” and described it as “little more than public name-calling”.

But in response, Mr Fluck yesterday wrote back to Mr Thoresen to express his “puzzlement” at the accusation of name-calling and claimed that the ABI’s press release on the dispute called all lawyers “ambulance chasers”.

Mr Fluck wrote: “We do not consider the campaign to be a gross error of judgment, but rather that it communicates an important ongoing message to consumers. I have no plans to abandon it”.

The central claims in the campaign is that PI claimants should reject an insurer’s initial offer and take legal advice to get an average of three times more compensation.

The ABI said that the data, based on research from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) via the Freedom of Information Act, was “patchy and limited”.

In response, Mr Fluck pointed out that this was because of inconsistent and incomplete responses from ABI members to the FSA, and that the only reason its findings could not be described as conclusive was because of the “unaccommodating” approach of the insurance industry.

In the letter, Mr Fluck invited the ABI to help provide a “solution to this disagreement” by assisting the Law Society and the Financial Conduct Authority in a larger study on the difference in settlement amounts.

He wrote: “The FSA determined there was a real risk in this instance despite the paucity of data provided by the insurance industry.

“I do not accept that the campaign is based on ‘highly misleading and selective use of statistics’. If anything, using the few other statistical findings from the review would only emphasise the point made in the campaign, for example, the finding that only 3-4% of consumers reject the first offer from an insurer, implying ‘possible consumer detriment’.

“It is important to note, as I am sure you will agree, that as insurers hold all the relevant data, the report is the only publicly available data capture that there is.”

The FSA figures are from a study of 113 cases from three insurers, undertaken four years ago.