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Cost and quality indications: you don't always get what you pay for

In most areas in life, you kind of get what you pay for. In a confusing market price is often used, for better or worse, as a proxy for quality. We may debate the value of the additional quality bought in relation to price, but usually it can be found.

The problem comes when you enter into a market so alien that it turns traditional indicators of quality on their head. Insurance is one such market. It amazes some of my friends - and one or two journalists too - that certain types of insurance that are commonly sold direct to the consumer are often both more expensive and have worse features than other types of insurance. This is not about channel - no advice, versus advice - this is about product: a non-underwritten product typically has a higher price and worse coverage. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is typical.

Cross the boundary to non-underwritten and it means that 'more expensive' is no guide to quality. Consumers, unfamiliar with the terms of insurance contracts do not see the sharp differences between underwritten and non-underwritten cover that advisers see. They just see pretty much equivalent long wordy documents with confusing terms - if they read them at all.

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